Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Next week I am going to do origami projects with the kids, so I have been looking up ideas on the internet - this site is the best I've found. If you are looking for a little craft idea, it is a great resource!!

Origami for Kids

Vacillating Part II

Just got back from the preschool. I spent the morning making "toilet paper roll bracelets" with the kids - it was actually very fun and, as always, the kids were adorable and full of energy and fun.

the world is right again. :)


On the way to the post office this morning I passed a man I pass almost everyday. He sits under one of the trees on the sidewalk and plays the guitar for tips. Eben befriended him early in the year, and through that connection, he always remembers me as well, and usually jumps up to give me a hug and remind me that I promised to buy a CD from him before the end of the year.

He is also HIV positive.

Today when I walked by him he wasn't playing, and he didn't jump up - he was quite clearly ill. I stopped to say hi on my way back and noticed that his eyes are almost completely yellow now, a sign of jaundice. He lifted his shirt to show me an oozing infection spreading over his stomach. This is an oportunistic infection - one that with a healthy immune system would not have made it past white blood cells. But this infection is rotting his skin and if left unchecked, will kill him.

To stay healthy he needs not only ARVs but also a diet rich in vegetables, fruits and grains - expensive commodities for someone who makes his money on the street at the mercy of those who walk by.

As usual, he asked me for money. This time I actually gave him a few rand hoping that he will buy vegetables, though I have no idea whether he will or not.

He asked me for a loan so that he could get an injection to kill the infection. I did not give it to him. I don't know whether I should have or not. I don't even know if he was telling the truth or not. I don't know if that should matter or not.

A side note - there is a very distinct difference between beggers on the street here and beggers in the United States. In the US, I usually know what to do - I know our systems are far from perfect, but there are shelters and soup kitchens, unemployment agencies, and so on that are in place. It does not work for everyone, but most people who find themselves on the street are able at some point to be reintegrated into the working economy. This is not to say that poverty is not very REAL in the United States - far from it. Poverty is real and alive and affecting thousands of people, something I saw everyday when I was working in Houston. It is something that needs fought with every ounce of strength that Americans have.

But here, poverty and homelessness are different than they are in the United States. Yes, there are a couple soup kitchens (in Grahamstown they are both run by a wonderful Rotarian) - but there is no shelter, or infastructure in place to absorb the people on the street and reintegrate them into the economy. And worse, there is no industry in Grahamstown. Few jobs. Especially if you are sick. Especially if you are dying - which an estimated 18-24% of the population is. That means that roughly one out of every 4 or 5 people of working age are facing similar dilemmas to the man I pass on the street every day - they are HIV positive. And in places like the township, unemployment reaches as high as 75 or 80%.

I vacillate between surges of hope and feelings of futility.

Monday, August 25, 2008


One of the first trips I took during my year here was a 2 week camping trip to Namibia. I just saw this slideshow on nytimes.com and had to share - we saw most of these things in person! Check it out - a stark but beautiful country...

The Lure of Namibia

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Malawi, I'm on my way - and other such news.

Its official! I just booked a ticket to Malawi for September 10-17th. One of our dear family friends, Tracy, is coming down with her daughter to prepare to officially open an orphanage. This is a project that I have held near to my heart since the moment I heard about it, and I am so excited toIgo and spend some time (albeit short) with them and see the amazing work that is taking place. Here's the link to the orphanage:

McKallie's Home of Future and Hope

It continues to amaze me that I do things like book tickets to Malawi and plan trips to orphanages as one of my daily activities. I cannot image being more blessed. I have been thinking about this a lot lately... and I don't even know where to begin expressing gratitude for - all of this.

In other news, I went back to Settler's Hospital today. (this is where I play with HIV+ kids while they wait for treatment) This was a somewhat big deal for me because since I went last week I have been pretty emotional - it was very hard on me emotionally last time. Today I spent the morning making animal masks with the kids and then playing tiger and springbok (meaning they are the tigers and I am the springbok, meaning essentially they have an excuse to hit/kick me - its great). It amazes me how impressionable kids are. They especially liked the way that I drew stripes on my tiger mask, and about 4 of them copied me meticulously. I kept lamenting that I had gone the traditional route with the colors, as all of them followed suit (I believe in encouraging creativity, even if that means a green polka-dot tiger). It made me hyper-aware of how actions are so much louder than words. Not speaking the same language also makes me aware of that. :)

Tangent on that note: today I was really hyped up about talking to the kids in Xhosa, as almost none of them speak English. I made a promise to go out of my way to address them in Xhosa (as most of the volunteers don't). So I sat down, gathered my courage (and pride), picked my kid, and threw at him my very best opening lines of Xhosa. He just stared at me. So I tried again, speaking more clearly this time - Ngubani igama lakho? (what is your name?) - more stares. Then he said, patiently: Are you trying to ask my name? "My name is Sipho and I speak English." Ha! Thank you Sipho.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You speak it, brother.

I feel like St. Francis of Assisi and I would have gotten along.
I would be a nun if it would teach me to love like him.
Today I was reading the stories behind two of his most famous 'quotes' - which actually are not his quotes, but definitely portray the way that he lived his life and his teachings.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, Joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled
As to console;
To be understood,as to understand;
To be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

AND - my all time favorite:

Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

La chureca

Watch this short documentary, if you can. It is only about 10 minutes long and very imformative.
It is also near and dear to my heart - it is about the people who live and work in the dump in the city of Managua, Nicaragua. The name of this dump is La Chureca. When I worked in Nicaragua two summers ago, I was working at Project Chacocente with families who had lived in this dump... that summer completely changed my life.

This film is especially wonderful to me because the film maker (Benjamin Packard) is the best friends of one of my very favorite and dearest friends. I found out he was interested in working on a documentary about people who work in a dump and told him about Project Chacocente (the project I had worked at)... passed on the email addresses I had, and voila! Connections make the world go round.


la chureca from retainer films on Vimeo.

heavy stuff.

I spent the morning 'volunteering' at Settler's Hosipital in the Children's HIV treatment centre. My job was to color with the kids while we waited for them to receive their ARV treatment, and then afterward while they waited for the blood test results.

I colored very hard. I colored like it was the last job I would ever have. I colored in panic, knowing I would only have a few minutes with each kid, and I was desperate to give them something.

It doesn't make sense. I mean, I study a lot about AIDS. All I do is read and write about it all day. And I go to AIDS testing centers, and I go to schools for street kids, and I take courses that study all of the underlying causes, so I get it. I get it. But I don't get it.

For each kid, I made a picture with their name in it, with animals, shapes or flowers all around their name. Some of the kids made me one, too, which was beyond precious.

The last kid I was coloring with didn't know how to write her name. I say her-- but I am actually not sure if it was a boy or a girl. She was completely emaciated. She almost didn't look entirely human - her eyes were so big and sunken into her head, the little bones were so sharp and looked like they were going to break through her skin. She was dying. I don't know how old she was - maybe 6? She was so tired, I could barely get her to color at all. We drew a lot of shapes together, like circles, triangles, squares, hearts. Then I drew a star and she looked up at me all shocked. So we spent the next 20 minutes or so learning how to draw stars, her mimicking me. Each time she completed one, she would smile this beautiful smile that literally melted my heart right out of my chest and onto the table. At the end, she drew one all by herself, and then had to go in for her treatment. She took the paper with her stars with her.

After she came out she was too tired to do much more, so I colored in the stars for her.

There is nothing fair about it.
I am angry.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Uganda turns to mass circumcision in Aids fight

Ugandan authorities have launched a mass circumcision drive with the hope it will reduce HIV/Aids rates in the East African country.

Some studies indicate circumcision could be 70% effective in protecting men against infection by the virus during heterosexual intercourse, when used in conjunction with condoms and other safe-sex practices.

Government officials in Kampala have decided to take advantage of a month-long traditional "circumcision season" practised by some tribes to drive the message home.

"Socially, it is uniting, and now it has also been proven medically; that is gratifying and it is now part and parcel of the strategy for fighting Aids," Kibale Wambi, chairperson of Sironko district in eastern Uganda, said.

The government plans to circumcise more than 3 000 local youths between the ages of 12 and 18. HIV activists say there needs to be more money and efforts like this on a global scale.

But some critics of circumcision in Uganda say it is brutal and dangerous. In traditional settings like Sironko, circumcisers have used the same knife for each young man.

This time, the government has introduced a strict one-knife-per-operation ruling to ensure no infections are passed on.

"If a knife is to be re-used on another person, it first has to be sterilised," Wambi said, wearing a traditional hat covered with cowrie shells.

"We have also discouraged the traditional practice of forcing the circumcised males into sexual intercourse to prove their manhood after the wound heals, to avoid the spread of sexually transmitted diseases."

Some experts fear that some of the newly circumcised men may believe they are immune following the procedure -- translating into even more risky sexual behaviour.

"All I know is that when I am circumcised, it will not be as easy for me to get infected with HIV/Aids," said one young man, Kizeja Michael, as he lined up for the operation.

"People who are circumcised are not able to get Aids," said his friend, Peter Kibatsi.

Uganda has been widely praised for an education campaign about condoms that is credited with cutting HIV prevalence rates from 30% two decades ago to about 6% today. -- Reuters

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Missing you Grandma!

I had a terrible wave of homesickness yesterday, as my entire family is gathering in Idaho today to celebrate my grandmother's 75th birthday!!! This is the very hardest part about being so far away. I am fortunate that I hardly ever get homesick, or if I do, a phone call home or whatnot usually is enough to get me through - but missing events like this makes me feel homesick all the way to my bones!

All of that said, I am so happy that everyone is getting together to celebrate my grandma today. She is one of my favorite people in the ENTIRE world, and truly one of my best friends. Since I was little, hearing her voice on the phone has been one of my favorite things ever, and I have never been as relaxed as I am when I spend time with her and Da on the ranch. She is one of the most resilient and adaptable people I know - she has spent her adult life moving all around the world, raising kids. Now she helps run a ranch and is also the best cook in the entire world - one of my life goals is to be able to cook even a portion as well as she does.

I feel so lucky to have such a close relationship with my grandma, especially one as special as mine. I am bummed I am missing the get together, but I am celebrating her from afar!

I am definitely there is spirit today. Happy, happy birthday Grandma, I love you!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Best Vaction EVER.

Three of my very best friends came to visit South Africa this month - I have to be the luckiest person in the world! In the course of 6 weeks, I got the chance to travel with my parents around Southern Africa, Backpack through Central Africa, visit my fiance in Cape Town THREE times, and road trip through South Africa with three of my dearest friends.

I cannot imagine having a more amazing vacation. It was so much fun, but it was also so uplifting to me - after all of that I feel so refreshed and grounded. It is almost like I had a trip home!

Here is a link to the pictures of the trip with Rach Kate and Pears!!

Rach Pears and Kate's Grand Tour of South Africa

Pictures from Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC!!

Uganda, Rwanda, DRC
My backpacking trip through Central Africa was truly life changing - it is hard to sum it up in words, and even the pictures don't come close to doing it justice. However, if you click through the pictures, I've written captions trying to capture a portion of the experiences. Enjoy the pictures!!

Pictures from my Parent's Trip - South Africa, Zambia, ZImbabwe and Botswana!!

Just click on the picture below to take you to a picture album!

The Fletchers do South Africa

animal pics from parent's trip!

I left most of the animal pictures out of the album - but here are the highlights!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Happy 21st Bri!

Today is my brother's 21st birthday!

I feel very fortunate that I have a little brother that I completely look up to - and not just because he is taller than I am. :) He's about to be a senior (!!) at the University in Idaho, and is literally rocking his business program there. For the rest of my life I will definitely be going to him for any business/financial-related matters. But far more important, he is possibly the most genuine, caring, loyal and loving person I know.
Bri - I am so proud of you and am so lucky to be your sister. Happy happy 21st!!!!!! (and be safe... i do have half of mom's genes....then again so do you.)