As to the aforementioned and titular peas, the village garden project has been flourishing, and harvesting of some of the crops that have been planted have been going bloomingly well. Just the other day, I had some fresh spinach from the garden - delicious! The lettuce has also been ready to harvest, and some people from the community have actually been able to buy some of the surplus produce. The peas were actually used in one of the lunches that we provide the kids that attend our preschool, and I spent a good hour or so getting the peas out of their pods. I'm not sure what the term is for the process, but I'm going to say de-pod-ing peas, like shucking corn or threshing wheat. So I was de-pod-ing these delicious peas, and I have to say, it's a lot of fun, but also a whole lot of work. Although the saying is "two peas in a pod", most pea pods don't have two, and if they did, it would be a rather small pod. Most have around 4, with upwards of 7!! And some even had something a little extra in it: a worm! Not that we were eating those ones, but life has its little surprises along the way. I guess Mendelian genetics isn’t the only thing you can learn from peas.
The fact that we are even able to harvest some of the vegetables planted in the garden is just an amazing fact in itself, and goes to show the success of the projects here. We were able to use the peas we de-pod-ed as part of the lunch menu, and it’s so exciting that it is even possible for this to happen, even if some of the kids purposely picked out the peas from their bowls. In the time that I’ve spent here, I can honestly say that I’ve seen changes, great and wonderful changes that makes me stand in awe of what the Foundation is doing here in South Africa, and makes me loathe to leave. The kids that are in the preschool, that I help to wash their hands, that I willing let shake my arms and hands until I’m sore – I’m really going to miss them. After about 6 weeks, they finally know my name, and when they say “Good morning Karissa” when I enter their classroom, I can’t help but smile back at them. The heart and resilience of a child is incredible, and it makes me remember how much I take for granted: my dream of a childhood, the fact that I have two parents who love each other and me, the mere fact that I am a United States citizen by the sheer reality that I was born there, the wide range of opportunities offered to me because of a free public school education until age 18, the even greater echelon I enter because of my acceptance to an Ivy League university and subsequent private graduate school, the financial capabilities to attend these schools and go on this trip in the first place – all of which put me in the top 1% of the world’s population. And that’s not even going into the most trivial of things that, like having a toilet seat, like being clean when you wake up every day, like having readily accessible pharmaceuticals and medical care, like reliable electricity and Internet that doesn't cut out every few minutes, like the ability to wash clothes in a machine rather than by hand.
And it makes me aware of what I'm going to miss here, like how the night sky is simply radiant here because light pollution doesn’t drown out the Milky Way. It really puts things in perspective, and makes me appreciate all that I’ve been blessed with, what I’ve been given, out of no effort of my own. When I look up into the sky, usually on the drive back to our lodgings or when I’m taking a shower (our shower is outside), I can’t help but be in wonder of the millions of gaseous bodies way out there in the universe. It makes me feel so small, because in the scheme of things, in the midst of this massive galaxy and the multitude of stars created by the Creator, He still cares for me, He loves me, and has given me a life that has been so chockfull of grace and blessings, and that is something that I can never lose. What can I do but give back but a portion of the gifts He’s granted to me, to share just a bit of the intelligence I don’t really think I have, to offer what little expertise and knowledge I’ve gained from my years of schooling, and present it wholeheartedly to the people, the future generations of this world, that desperately need it. And yet, as much as I attempt to rectify and solve the problems in this one community, there are thousands more who are not so lucky, who don’t have a benevolent benefactor bringing them medicine to treat their sores or providing them with fresh vegetables or teaching them English or paying their primary school fees. It hurts my heart when I realize the fate that awaits some of the children I see here, that despite the help we may provide, they may end up selling cabbage and oranges on the side of the road, living in a small house raising 6 children, or driving a taxi van from town to town. I can only hope that because of this small window we’ve opened to them, that they aspire to become something bigger than a street vendor or cashier at the Pick N’ Pay (the local supermarket), and that they actually achieve that dream. And while hope is something I seem to constantly be lacking, it is the one thing that I should and can never truly abandon. Because without hope, where would we be?
Anyways, on to a less somber topic… I’ll be in Zimbabwe for a few days doing a nutrition workshop to an HIV/AIDS group and then pop back to South Africa for a few days for a health fair before leaving on a jet plane back to the States. And as soon as I get back, I hit the ground running with orientations for my clinical rotation at Cedar Sinai, health screenings, and moving to the bustling life of a graduate student in Los Angeles.
But until that day, I’ll be savoring every minute I have left in this wonderful country.