Thursday, October 15, 2009


My second trip out with the Tutu tester crew was to the heart of Nyanga, one of the most dangerous townships. We were stationed at the taxi rank (the place were all the minibus taxies park; similar to a bus station). The taxi rank is full of people and action. There are hundreds of minibuses parked in rows and street vendors selling everything from clothes to goats lining the perimeter. The day in Nyanga was the first day the crew did TB testing since I started, so Katharina thought it would be a good idea for me to see how that part of the study works. It turned out to be a very good day for me to go because quite a few people tested HIV positive, so there were lots of sputum samples to collect. This was my first experience with inducing sputum, and trust me, it's not pretty. I felt really bad for those people just sitting in a tent, breathing salt water, and coughing their lungs out!

My other duty in Nyanga was to assist with registering patients. When people come to the tester, they have their height and weight taken. Then they come to me to be registered. I basically enter their information into the computer, get their fingerprint, and give them a tester number. They then rejoin the cue and wait for the nurses to call them in for the tests. I met some very nice people and a few not so nice ones! Among the nice ones was a man from Zim who had family in St. Louis. He has been in Cape Town for about 10 years and is considering going to the US to see if he would like it. Among the not so nice ones were two older men who were not very pleased with me. They approached the table and began speaking Xhosa. When I told them I did not under stand and asked them to speak English, one man got very upset. "English! NO!" he said, and continued to yell at me in Xhosa. After a couple of minutes of this, my friend from Zim came to the rescue. He said something to the man who then threw up his hands and walked away. My friend explained to me that the man was upset because I was black but did not speak the language. To the man, this was unacceptable. He explained to the man that I was from the US, but by that point the man was so displeased that he just walked away. Since then, I have been trying to work on my conversational Xhosa, but I'm sad to report my progress has been very slow.

Yesterday, I went back to Nyanga to assist with a 12-hour testing event. The MSR coordinators wanted to test as many men as they could from 10am to 10pm. I went out with the first shift and was  at the testing site from 9 to 2:30. I was the one-man registration station and was responsible for registering all the men and then printing their vouchers (today they were given R50; $7 USD) after they finished posttest counseling. Within the first few hours, I had registered over 50 men (about the same amount that we did the whole day I was out the last time), and there were probably double that waiting. I believe they were expecting over 500 men to show up, but with only a handful of nurses and even fewer counselors, I have no clue how they were going to serve all those men.

I was supposed to go to the airport with Professor Lee, so I left at 2:30. At around 6:30, I got a very disturbing phone call from Katharina. Shortly after I left, there was an armed robbery at the testing site. I do not know many details, but the computer, some supplies, and all the staff's cell phones were stolen. Other than being very shaken up, everyone is ok. The Lord was definitely looking out for me yesterday. Had I been there,  I probably would have been on the next flight home! Cape Town is a very beautiful place, and it is so easy to forget that it is also a very dangerous place. I will continue to work at the foundation and ask that you send prayers of health and safety my way.

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