500 Miles

1 07 2013

Another video from our travels by Kathy Larrea! It was so fun to make this one.


Africa 2013

1 07 2013

Here’s a video by one of the students on our trip, Hannah Anema, who took a ton of great footage. Enjoy :)

A month later.

25 06 2013

Hello everyone!


Well, it’s been exactly a month since we left South Africa and it has already been so hectic back in the U.S. For me at least, it was a complete turnaround within 24 hours of getting back to Minnesota and starting work. I’ve been busy with chemistry research, seeing family and friends and applying to medical schools, but somehow South Africa is continually on my mind. I miss it a lot, actually. I miss the slow lifestyle, the beautiful animals, the friends I saw day in and day out, the non-buggy-ness, the Langerry atmosphere, and of course the Missionvale Care Center. But there is something else I miss that I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it is that someone always knows where you are, or the accent, or hearing clicks on the kombi ride home from NMMU. There are so many things I didn’t realize were everyday occurrences until I came back. Don’t get me wrong, I love being home and being able to see family and friends again! And eating the foods I like and drinking skim milk :) I just know that I’ll never have an experience anything like studying abroad in South Africa.

I was filling out a survey on studying abroad today, and I came across the question, “How will you integrate your study abroad experience into life at CSBSJU?” The first thing I thought of was that I would go visit my new friends! Then I thought about how being in South Africa made me more politically aware. I know we don’t have a similar situation as South Africa, but I think learning about apartheid and seeing the type of poverty it caused was something I won’t quickly forget. I have already found myself more eager to jump into discussions on poverty, which I have never been comfortable with before because I hadn’t seen much of it myself. I also realized how much more I now desire to volunteer as a doctor in the future. I saw how much it made a difference for the doctor to be there even one day out of a week, and I think going abroad and providing free health care for a week or two out of a year could also be very beneficial for a poverty-stricken community. I would even think about going back to Missionvale.

Look at me, already talking about going back! I have found myself doing that too often, I suppose. Right now, I want to reflect on my time in South Africa, collect all the pictures I want to remember it by and stay connected with the people that made my trip memorable. It’s hard with the fast pace American life back in full swing, but I’m finding a little time here and there to go through pictures and memories. I know I’ll never forget South Africa, but I want to make the most of what I learned from being there. South Africa has changed me for the better. Ubuntu – I am who I am because of who we all are. Inkosi, South Africa.





27 05 2013

Hello family and friends!


Mykonos has been great so far! We arrived at our hostel around 7 pm on Saturday, which was called Villa Francesca. After we got settled in, we found a small market at which to buy a few groceries. We had spaghetti for dinner the first night in our hostel room and then went out into the city center during the night. Yesterday, we looked up what we wanted to do on Mykonos in the morning (didn’t get up until 10:30 am) and then wandered around the city center again and laid on the little beach close by. Preston, Joe and I went to church at the only Catholic church on the island, and the mass was in Latin! It was really cool because then he asked one of us to do a reading in English so Preston did that, and he asked another guy to do a reading in Spanish. Then, the homily was in Greek! So many different languages. It was so cool. We could follow along with a book that had eight different languages in it, and I followed pretty well anyway since most of the stuff you say during mass is the same. At night, we went to a place called Niko’s Taverna and ordered some good food, except I don’t think I’ll be ordering lamb anymore. I keep trying it and just don’t like it as much as chicken, steak, and other meats. Anyway, during dinner a HUGE pelican appeared and just waddled around the tables! A lot of locals stopped and pet him and exclaimed, “Petros!” Apparently, he’s the mascot of the island. We basically just hung out for a little bit last night after dinner (we didn’t eat until 9:30 or 10) and went to bed. We got up this morning to try to go to yoga in Castle Panagirakis at 9 am, but we couldn’t find it. We got a good workout walking up and down the steep roads for a while, though. After that, we rented two ATVs and rode around the island all day, stopping at beaches and places to get food! We laid out on the beach for a few hours total, so we’re pretty tired now. We’ll have an earlier dinner tonight before going on a night ATV ride and probably go back to one of the beaches at which there are supposed to be some activities. Tomorrow, Joe and Ally are planning to go scuba diving in the morning and Preston and I will drop off the ATVs. We’ll probably explore the town for a little bit more and then we’re headed to Naxos on a ferry at 2:45! We’ll see where the day takes us when we get there :) Take care, everyone!






Last Few Days in Africa

25 05 2013

Hello there!  We (Preston and Melissa)  hope to go back and fill in the final week or two of our study abroad experience in South Africa, but here are just a few of the things we have been up to in the last few days.  We are currently sitting in the Athens airport waiting for our flight to Mykonos to begin the final leg of our adventure in Greece!

Wednesday May 22nd

Preston had his Political Science final exam in the morning and Melissa went to John Dory’s for the final time in the afternoon. We both had our final Literature presentations later which went well for everyone. Our class rushed back to Langerry to get ready for our boat cruise we had in the evening. This was our final event as a group together and was paid for by the program with leftover group money. Our normal driver should have picked us up at 5:30 in order to make sure we arrived by 6:20. After calling him several time saying and him saying he was ‘almost there’ we decided around 6:05 that we would have to find our own way or miss the boat (pun intended!). We waved down one of the minibuses (called Kombis or taxis) and piled almost our entire group into it with 4 taking a cab not too far behind. These do not usually deviate from the main beach road, but we told the driver we had to get to Jester Bay Cruises by 6:20. It took us some trouble to find the place as the driver did not know where to go even though he told us he did before we got in! We paid and RAN to the boat as the clock ticked 6:20. For this boat cruise, the ocean was pretty wavy so we stayed in the bay area. On the boat, we had dinner and drinks and danced to music. Also, we conducted an awards ceremony in which each member of the group received a funny award that described something about that person. Preston’s was “Best Gary Impression” and Melissa’s “Most Likely to Have a Mary Poppins Bag.” Apparently, Preston’s impersonation of our trip advisor is pretty good and Melissa always carries around useful items that people need (like scissors, floss, advil…). This boat ride was a great way to conclude the trip as a group!

Thursday May 23rd

Today was kind of a free day for anyone from our group of 28 left in Port Elizabeth as Wednesday was the final day for program planned activities. Most of the day was spent packing, saying goodbye to some of those leaving, and just hanging around. We said goodbye to our group at night since we would be getting up around 5 for our flight in the morning.

Friday May 24th

Got to the airport quite early (but better to be early than late!) and flew to Johannesburg for the first flight. Once there, we exchanged the last of our Rand for Euros. From Johannesburg, we had an eight hour flight to Doha, Qatar where we had an overnight layover.

Saturday May 25th

We found a ‘Quiet Zone’ that had somewhat comfortable chairs on which to sleep. We crashed there for the night and awoke to catch our plane to Athens.  At one point during the flight, Preston opened up the window shade of the plane only to see the island of Santorini which will be our final island! At the airport we figured out our final flight and dropped our large bag off at the luggage storage.


Now, waiting for our final flight to the island Mykonos, we are reflecting on what an incredible experience South Africa was and how weird it is to be gone, but also how excited we are for this week on the Greek islands and to finally go home and see everyone! There will most likely be a few more blog posts on South Africa thoughts and our trip in Greece, just FYI. We love you all and can’t wait to see you!! Cheers :)

Melissa and Preston

Melissa’s Final Journal

17 05 2013

May 12, 2013

Monday was our very last day of service learning. It was a sad, but good and productive day. The six of us health people went to Santa’s workshop for the beginning of the day. I told Hattie when we got there that this would be our last time there, and she said thank you and that she would miss us. We wrapped a ton of gifts like usual. One time when I went out to get more gifts from the main room to wrap, a man was there talking to Hattie and she said to me, “Meet my husband!” He gave me a huge handshake and he talked to me for a little bit about his job and how he’s trying to get enough money to go to America. He asked if I liked South Africa and I said very much, like I tell everyone who asks. He was very nice, and it was really cool to meet her husband after knowing so little about her the whole time we’ve been at Missionvale. She also showed us some pictures of her daughter’s wedding, which was a few weeks before. After Santa’s workshop, we finished at the nutrition center for about the last hour. We didn’t do much packing there because the workers had prepared some songs for us! Rachel, Josita, Bishop, and another lady whose name I didn’t get sang three beautiful African songs (some parts in English). It made many of us tear up because they sang them to us with all their hearts put into it. We decided to sing them a few songs, too, including You Are My Sunshine and our National Anthem. We then went around and gave them each several hugs and said how much we appreciated our time there and how much they welcomed us. The goodbye took a little while, which included saying goodbye to Cow, Pig and Biscuit (the three dogs that followed us around at Missionvale). It was hard to say goodbye to a place that holds so many memories, but we got to have another farewell the day at the Missionvale breakfast. Many tears were shed and many hugs and “I love you’s” shared, but Missionvale will always hold a place in my heart. My experiences there were unlike any other, and I am so grateful for all the people that made them possible. Someday, I might just find myself helping at the Missionvale clinic again, but as a doctor this time. That would be a dream come true.

Melissa’s Journal #12

8 05 2013

May 6, 2013

This past weekend, I came down with some sort of stomach bug and so I decided it would be best not to go to service learning on Monday. I felt much better after sleeping in, so I was able to go on Tuesday! The six of us pre-health students started at Santa’s workshop. There were a few gifts already put together, so I wrapped some of those and then got started putting more gifts together. I asked Hattie which gifts I could take from the main room to wrap, and she gave me some boxes with girls’ dolls and random accessories. When I pulled the dolls out, I got discouraged at what kinds of gifts I could make for them. I found a few cute things in the accessories box like a pillow with hearts on it and a small Barbie car, but the rest of the box contained dirty blankets, toy hangers, and some kind of knitting that was really long with a hole on each end. I moved onto a couple boxes of baby stuff next. There were more knit sweaters and a big box of fuzzy animals, and when I ran out of sweaters I found a box of baby toys. There were a couple of pretty good, clean toys, but not many. I quickly ran out of those, so I resorted to putting together a few stuffed animals in each bag with at least one of them having some sort of rattle or noise maker in it. Since there were many dirty or ratty stuffed animals, I decided the best way to go about using as many as possible was to put a nice one with a not-so-nice one. There were a few that I thought were not even givable which I left in the box, but I still felt bad even packing the not-so-nice ones. It’s still hard for me to figure out which gifts are unsatisfactory in their standards, because so many are even close to American standards. When someone makes a comment like, “It’s Missionvale, they’ll like whatever they get,” it makes me sad and want to give them something better. But, like I said in a previous journal, I do still think it is better for them to get something than nothing at all. It’s hard to justify it for a baby, though, who doesn’t even know what a gift or Christmas is. Anyway, we got a lot of presents made during probably our last time at the workshop, and we switched over to the nutrition center. Rachel and Josita were glad to see us again, and we started making tea bags. My fingers got the most sore they ever have been and I felt like I couldn’t tie them efficiently anymore, so I asked Rachel if there was anything else I could help with. Josita and I made a few bags of maize meal, which was bought in big 10 kg bags. That only lasted a few minutes because Josita had to go help with something else, but it was basically time to leave anyway. I told Rachel that we would only be at Missionvale one more time, and she couldn’t believe we’d been there for three months! She said every time a volunteer group comes through, at the end of their time she asks how long they were there and she can never believe it. The time has gone by so fast, and I too can’t believe that I’ll be going back to Missionvale for perhaps (but hopefully not) the last time ever next week after three months of serving there. I learn more every week and gain new insights into issues of South Africa. My main goal, though, is to help as many people as I can in the last four hours I’ll be there.