Sunday, August 26, 2007

It's been a while since my last entry, mostly because I've been away playing tourist this week. My wife, Cindy, arrived last week and we've been driving around the countryside to places we never went when we lived in Johannesburg. So far, we've:
- been to the penguin colony in Simon's Town
- gone on a 2-day "safari" at a private game reserve in Albertinia, a 4-hour drive from Cape Town
- driven through the West Coast National Park, a huge wildlife and wildflower area on the Atlantic ocean about an hour's drive from here
- hiked through Kirstenbosch Gardens, a 575-hectare (1450-acre) protected park on the east side of Table Mountain that's full of flora (and some fauna) from southern Africa, including many endangered plant species
- walked through the local craft market (twice) doing our best to support the local economy

We've also been out to eat 6 nights in a row, something really unusual for me. It's been fun though, as some places just aren't fun if you're alone. It's meant a little extra work at the gym, however.

This coming week, I'm going to taking Cindy to work with me. We'll spend at least Tuesday at the clinic (maybe Thursday, too) and Wednesday and Friday at the Centre. She should have a better sense of the challenges in the townships and what people are doing to overcome them.

Before I picked Cindy up from the airport last week, I had another interesting experience. I went to see Rosie at Tygerberg Hospital. She was transferred about 10 days ago because GF Jooste needed her bed for more acute cases (it's unusual for people to be admitted there for more than a few days, and Rosie had been there for three weeks). She's in a rehab unit where they are trying to restart her TB medications. They had to be stopped for a short time because she developed drug-induced hepatitis, a form of liver damage brought on by medications. I'll stop and see her this week, and I really hope she's doing better so she can get back home soon. (No one ever thought she'd be in the hospital for one week, let alone five).

When I was getting home from the visit, I got a call from a friend of Rosie's. Somehow I had promised to drive Rosie's daughter Amanda to Kraaifontein to pick up her aunt, who was going to stay with her for a few days and help with the kids. There was a little confusion about this trip, as I never talked to her about it. But, they had made up their minds and we were going. So, I picked up Amanda and her friend's daughter, Precious, and off we went.

First stop: Phillipi to get the aunt's address. Well, no one seemed to have it, so I was "given" a navigator who knew the way. Now, Kraaifontein is about 30 minutes from Guguletu, if you have good directions. Unfortunately, my navigator had been drinking all afternoon and didn't exactly have a keen sense of direction. We took a lot of shortcuts, so many that it took over an hour to finally find the shack. It was now dusk, and I was only a little worried about being in an unfamiliar place and finding my way back. I needn't have worried: Everyone I met was very friendly and happy to see a white man helping someone in need. One person told me I was the first white man they had ever seen in their neighborhood, which I don't doubt (it's a bit rural, and there's nothing there except homes and shacks).

While we were waiting for Amanda to collect her aunt, I had a nice chat with Precious. (I'm not using her real name, for reasons that will become obvious.)

- She gave me some background on Amanda and Rosie and why their situation is so precarious. Apparently, Rosie inherited her house from her father. As I understand it, government houses can be passed down only one generation. However, if Rosie were to die, the house would be reclaimed by the municipality and Amanda and her two siblings would be on the street. Needless to say, everyone in the neighborhood are concerned about what's going to happen if Rosie doesn't come home.

- Some people are looking at Rosie as an example of how tenuous life with TB and HIV can be. Rosie had been a very strong woman with a good job before she became sick from her TB. Others around the neighborhood watched her go downhill quickly, and people started examining their own lives. I hadn't thought about this until last week, when I thought about Rosie and Tozama, the woman who recently passed away (more on her a little later). It must be very difficult for members of the HIV support group, or just people living with HIV in general, to go to funerals and memorial services. They have to confront their own possible futures with every death, and those of their families, just like Scrooge had to do with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. They have to see the impact it has on their families and loved ones, emotionally and economically. Yet they still come to pay tribute and thank God that they are still living.

- Precious then shared with me that she's HIV positive. She found out earlier this year when she was pregnant. She was treated with medications during her pregnancy, so her baby was born without HIV (although he still has to be tested for a few more months to be sure). Precious has not told her mother, though. She is very afraid her mother will be disappointed in her, as she was when Precious fell pregnant. She said she thinks her mother knows, though, because her mother saw Precious taking her medication one day and said it looked like what people take for HIV. Precious told her they were just vitamins for the baby and her mother didn't push it. While I understand the hesitancy to disclose her status, I still don't understand why Precious felt comfortable telling me, someone she had just met a couple hours earlier, and not the woman who loves her more than anyone on Earth. I hope she can find the courage to tell her mother when the time is right.

After about 30 minutes of waiting, we got everyone back in the car and headed back to Guguletu. Amanda and her aunt talked the whole way back – well, the aunt talked and Amanda sobbed. Amanda's had it very tough over the past few months, caring for her mother, brother and sister, keeping up the house and cooking, while still going to school and trying to be a teenage girl. I don't think she's had anyone to confide in and talk to for weeks and had a lot of emotion to get out. It will be good for her to have someone in the house for a while.

On Sunday, while Cindy slept in, I attended Tozama's funeral. It was on Sunday to avoid a conflict with a nearby funeral that was held Saturday. It was a very nice service, all held at the house. We started at about 8:00 with a small prayer service. The casket was in the small bedroom, with about 10 family members crowded in the room as well. About 10 of us sat in the lounge and listened to the prayers being said. At about 9:00, the casket was moved outside to the front yard and the funeral began. I was asked to help carry the casket, which seemed to weigh almost nothing. Of course, Tozama only weighed about 60 pounds, and the casket was wood and simple adornments. Very different than other pallbearer experiences I've had, where six guys struggled to carry the casket. This one could have been easily carried by two men.

Tozama's mother, Thomi, asked me to say a few words during the ceremony. I made some observations about Tozama, that she was a strong woman who wanted to live for her family, but for whom God had a different plan. I also offered a short prayer for the family. I'm getting much more comfortable with these, even though I hope I don't have to do too many more.

After a short burial service at the cemetery, we were served a nice lunch at the house. I was the only man at the “umfundisi table,” completely the opposite of other funeral lunches where there might be one woman at a table full of men. Then it was home to start my vacation.

One last thing: This week I heard a great quote from Herman Melville: "Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed." I know this has applied to me in the past. I won't comment on anyone else, except to say that everyone here seems to have an opinion on what the problems are. Now, if someone would just ask the people living with the problems...

More to come.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An Expensive Day

I've now been here long enough that people looking for help (money) are coming to see me at the Centre. Here are three examples, all of which happened Tuesday/Wednesday this week:

1. Ntozama's mother
Ntozama is the proper name of the woman who passed away this past weekend (the one I took to the day hospital about 10 days ago). I knew she came from a very poor family, but didn't realize how poor until her mother called to ask for a meeting with me. I met with her after I finished at the clinic. She said she was struggling to pay for the funeral, to be held on Sunday. (She picked Sunday to avoid "competing" with another funeral down the street that's being held Saturday.) The undertaker is willing to do the whole job for R4500. Unfortunately, the mother only has R1000. Her ex-husband (Ntozama'a father) has nothing. Ntozama's husband was supposed to come to help but didn't show up. So, the mother was very worried about how to bury her daughter with dignity.

A look around the house confirmed the state of affairs. Ntozama slept in a room with a mattress on the floor. That's it. The lounge (living room) had maybe two chairs and a TV. All of the walls were bare and the rugs threadbare, where there were rugs. They had one paraffin (kerosene) stove for heat and cooking.

After checking my finances, I offered to contribute R5000 to the cause. The look of joy I received in return was enough payment for it. The mother can now have a proper service and lunch, just like she wanted. Everything will done at the house to keep expenses down - she has a very small house, so I'm not sure what kind of crowd there will be. Members of the HIV support group will be there, so it should be a good turnout. The mother received a pail of paint from a neighbor, so she had a couple men busy painting the lounge and front of the house to make it look clean.

2. A woman traveller
A woman Yvonne knows came to the Centre yesterday morning to see me. We went to see her late in the afternoon. She is very poor, living in a shack behind a house just a few blocks from the Centre. She buried her brother-in-law three months ago and spent quite a sum to help the family. Then, last month her brother died from HIV-related disease in the Eastern Cape. She very much wanted to go to the funeral but could not afford transportation. A round-trip bus ticket would cost R600, and she would need some extra money for incidentals and clothes.

I offered to loan her R1000 so she could attend the funeral. She insisted it is a loan and that she will pay me back in time. I gave her the money today, and she is excited to be able to go.

(I've given several "loans" since I've been here. I have yet to be paid back for any of them. I gave myself a rule very early on in my stay: Never give anyone anything you can't afford to lose. So far it's been a good rule to follow.)

3. Mogise
Mogise, who calls himself Gladstone, is a 28 year-old man living in Crossroads. He became HIV-positive in 2001. He is the oldest in his family; both parents have passed away. He lives with 5 other family members, one of whom has a baby. No one is working, except for a rare day job as a labourer. As the oldest, everyone looks up to Mogise for food, heat, and other necessities of daily living.

I met Mogise in church about 3 weeks ago. He was brought there by a couple members of the support group. Initially, I was only asked to provide transportation to the support group meetings (he cannot afford the R8 needed for a cockroach taxi). After we talked a couple times, he got brave and asked me to help buy some electricity. Then it was some money for paraffin. Yesterday, he bit big and asked for some groceries to cover the 4 days until his sister gets the child-care grant for the baby (R200). So, Tuesday we went to the grocery store and I bought R265 worth of assorted groceries. I also gave him R100 for more electricity and transport.

To try and find some long-term help for him, I set up a meeting with our social worker for today. After she and he got their plans sorted out, Mogise asked if I could take him to buy a blanket. So, back to the store we went. After that, and buying some vegetables from a stand outside the store, I took Mogise back home. He invited me inside to show how dire his situation is. He normally sleeps in a shack outside the house, but roof was lost in the last windstorm. Now he's sleeping in a room in the back of the house, one that leaks wind and rain. He had one blanket on his bed, no sheets or pillows. His house was also very bare and quiet, considering the number of people who live there.

(I had another interesting experience at the market. First, you need to understand where we were. Nyanga Junction is a shopping area above a busy train station, the main station for rides into Cape Town. It's a quasi-strip mall with a number of small, independent shops with a couple chain stores mixed in. It's a very busy place, right in the heart of Guguletu and near to Nyanga. It's very unusual to see a white person there - I could have been the first one there this month. Anyway, as I was standing at the vegetable stand waiting for Mogise, one of the youth leaders from JL Zwane came up to me and asked me what I was doing there and if I was alone. The look on her face showed she was very concerned, bordering on fear. I pointed to Mogise, and she relaxed. I appreciated her concern and attention and will thank her on Sunday. It also told me that I need to be very careful if I ever go back there.)

The long and short of these examples is that there are lots of ways to help people, but also lots of ways to get pulled deep into difficult situations. As long as I follow my own rules I will be okay.

Two other things:
1. Rosie update: Rosie is looking much better. She's alert and smiling, even more than this past weekend. She can now sit up and is trying to use her crutches. Unfortunately, she's had a setback with her TB medications. She had an episode of drug-induced hepatitis, so all of her medications had to be stopped. The doctors are going to transfer to a rehab unit in a different hospital so that they can slowly restart the medications and get her stabilized again. I'd hate for her to go backwards and be so ill again - I don't think she'd survive it.

I'm really hoping she can be home within the next couple weeks. She misses her family a lot, and she's lost a lot of weight because she won't eat the hospital food. I'll bet she's down at least 20 pounds from when she was admitted 3 weeks ago. At home she can get good, basic food and quickly regain some weight.

2. My "wish I had a camera" moment this week happened on Tuesday morning. I happened to be driving by the commuter railroad tracks at the right time and saw a fully loaded train go by. And I mean fully loaded. There were guys hanging out of the doorways, standing between cars, and even riding on the roof. It reminded me of pictures of India's trains. I know that train surfing (literally standing up on top of the cars, dodging obstacles) is big in Soweto, but I didn't expect to see it here.

More to come.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Wild Thing Has Nothing On Gugulethu

Wild Thing is the name of the biggest roller coaster at Valleyfair, the big amusement park near the Twin Cities. It has a great (size and fun) drop-off at the first hill. You go up and up and up, and then all of a sudden you're free falling. Or at least it feels that way. That's how my afternoon was today. And here I thought I'd have nothing to write about this week...

I saw Rosie twice this weekend. She's doing much better. She's not confused anymore, she can sit up now, and she's starting to walk with crutches. She also seems happier, even though she absolutely hates being the hospital. Of course, there are stories for both days:

Yesterday, I took her housemate Eric (I think he's the partner of Nokubonga, the other woman in the house) to visit. When we got to GF Jooste, they swore she wasn't there, but was still at Groote Schuur. Groote Schuur (pronounced Groot-es-kewer, with the G sounding like you have a phlegmy throat) is the major public-sector teaching hospital in Cape Town. It'd be like the pre-Fairview University of Minnesota hospital, where GF Jooste would be like Hennepin County Medical Center (but worse). Rosie went to GS to have a neurology consultation about her feet and legs. It wasn't clear when she went if she'd stay there or come back to Jooste. Well, it appeared like she went there and stayed. So, Eric and I drove to GS. After wandering the hallways for 30 minutes and asking for help about 6 times, the nurses swore she was back at Jooste. So, we went back to Jooste. Sure enough, she was there all along, one aisle over from where she was last week. We visited for about 30 minutes (now past visiting hours, but I didn't care) and then left. I promised to come back today with her kids.

As promised, I picked up Amanda and her baby sister, plus Nokubonga and her daughter, and we all headed for Jooste. When we were walking in, a woman I kind of recognized pulled me aside and told me that Nokuzola had just died. At least, that's what I thought she said. Nokuzola is Rosie's real name. I stood there dumbfounded. I said I had just talked to her yesterday and she seemed fine. After pausing for a few seconds, I continued to walk into the ward with Amanda and Nokubonga. I stopped us at the nurses desk and discreetly asked if it was true that Rosie had passed away. The nurse looked at me a little funny and said No, she's just sleeping. When we walked to the bed, she woke up.

It took me a few seconds to realize that the woman in the hallway was the sister of the woman I had taken to the Gugulethu day hospital last week. It was she who had passed away. I went over the bed, which was surrounded by the typical hospital-issue ugly beige curtain. Her mother was just coming out. I gave her a hug and she sobbed a couple times, then straightened up and walked out with the other family members. I will stop and see how they are doing tomorrow. (The mother also had a cast on her left arm, which is new since last week. I'll have to get the story on that another day.) I feel bad about the fact she was in hospital and I didn't know, especially because she was literally in the bed next to Rosie last week and I didn't even notice. I also never checked up on her after the day hospital trip, which I'm embarrassed about.

We had a good visit with Rosie, though. she got to hold and play with her baby (now 16 months old) and talk with Amanda and Nokubonga. Nokubonga also trimmed her fingernails and rubbed some cream on her feet. After about a half-hour we left and I took everyone back home.

Up, up, up with Rosie; crash-dive with the other woman; up, up, up again with Rosie. I think I prefer Wild Thing - at least you know it ends.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Personal Space: A Privilege

I am not an overly warm and cuddly guy. One of the things I treasure is a sense of personal space. The unwritten rule in Minnesota (at least with everyone I know) is that everyone has a 3-foot buffer around their body at all times. You have to be invited into that space, and to breach it uninvited is just wrong. I clearly believe in that rule and follow it as often as I can. Clearly, though, people in the townships have never heard of that rule and I've had to adjust.

I'm not sure if it's cultural or a result of the living conditions; probably both. But, it's the norm to pack many people, without complaint, into what we would consider small spaces. Seven in a car, two on a chair, four around a desk, it's all an everyday event.

Privacy is also very different. Most township residents do not expect the level of privacy we're accustomed to in the U.S. I've mentioned before that people living in shacks and hostels do their bathing and dressing (and other things) within plain sight of other family members. At the clinic, people crowd around as they get their prescriptions, and everyone can see and hear what the other person's getting. I've even had women come into the men's room at the Centre when their stalls are full. They come in fast, so as not to embarrass anyone (them or me), but they come just the same. They'll even go into the stall in pairs. (I know women visit restrooms in groups, but that seems a little much to me.) It's just not a problem.

I had an experience in the extremes of personal space and privacy when I went to visit Rosie in the hospital this weekend. (By the way, I found out her real first name is Nokuzola. She is Sotho, from somewhere in the Free State.) She is in GF Jooste, the main hospital for Guguletu and all the surrounding areas. Jooste has four wards, each holding about 50-60 people. Two are for men and two for women, one each for surgical cases and one for medical cases. The wards are big rooms with partitions that divide them into 6- or 8-bed cubicles. The beds in the cubicles are about 3-4 feet apart, with only a curtain to separate them. The curtains are kept open so the nurses and aides can get a sense of what's happening.

As you can imagine, there is little to no privacy in Jooste. Even when there is an "emergency" going on, most everyone knows what's happening. It's worse during visiting hours - there must have been 20 visitors in Rosie's cubicle today, all standing around beds trying to have conversations. A group was holding a prayer service for a patient one cubicle over, but it may have been next door. It's hard not to see what's happening, from the woman eating ice cream to the one with the backless gown sitting without a cover on. Or the woman who just got sick all over her bed.

I also had another "white person privilege" experience. When I went to see Rosie yesterday it was because her daughter called me to come. Apparently Rosie had had enough and wanted to go home. She was also under the assumption that she needed to have an operation, because her doctor had told her she needed to go to Groote Schuur Hospital, the teaching hospital in Cape Town, for a consultation. I said my hellos to her family and spent a little time talking with her. I noticed her chart sitting on the bedside table, so I started to read it to see what was happening. I didn't get very far before the nursing sister told me that I wasn't allowed to do that, that only a doctor or nurse (her) could read the chart. I told her that I was a pharmacist at Brown's Farm Clinic and was trying to help Rosie understand what was happening. She said she or the doctor would come back and help me. And she said it 2-3 more times over the next 20 minutes.

Now, doctors don't round at Jooste on weekends. The only doctors in the hospital are interns who cover emergencies and new admissions. The intern on duty happened to be at the next bed helping a woman who was having an asthma attack. After he got that resolved, he did take some time to speak with me and we got everything sorted out (more on that in a minute). You had to be there, but I'm convinced if I wasn't a white guy, and probably a white American, that I wouldn't have seen anybody yesterday. I would have been brushed aside and had to have waited until Monday. I say that because no one had talked to Rosie's family at all, even though they had raised the same concerns. That's just wrong.

After a barrage of tests, it appears Rosie has tuberculosis (TB) and a bad pneumonia (PCP). She started on TB drugs last week and will be on them for at least 6 months. She also has TB in her abdomen (which is fairly common) and this has been the cause of her stomach problems. In addition, she has bad peripheral neuropathy, which is where the nerves in the feet (and sometimes the hands) get damaged resulting in numbness and pain. The TB drugs can cause the neuropathy, but she's had it for several weeks. So, that's why she's going to Groote Schuur, to go to the neurology clinic. She doesn't need an operation, and should be going home fairly soon. That's good, because she's not sleeping or eating well in the hospital.

In closing, let me also say I had one of my most difficult days on Thursday after I heard about the bridge collapse. It took me a little while to realize it, but I felt like I did on 9/11. I didn't directly know anyone affected by the disaster, but I knew that I wanted to be there to support those who were affected. It was especially hard because people here either didn't know about it or didn't make any connection between Minneapolis and me. I didn't have anyone to talk about it with, especially in the morning when I read Cindy's e-mail about it (because of the time difference). I now have a better sense of what real isolation means, even though I'm closely surrounded. My thoughts are with everyone there.

More to come.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Week in Review

(No fancy title for this posting, mostly because I'm not feeling too creative today.)

It's been another good week. Or, to put in Minnesota terms, it was interesting.

Last Saturday I attended part of a youth camp for kids living in Guguletu. It was put on by the Multi-Talent Group, a non-profit started by two men, Nceba and Zolile, in Guguletu. They started their organization to give kids something to do besides walk the streets and get into trouble. Every Friday afternoon they have a open stage at the Sports Complex, so kids can come and dance, rap, do poetry, or whatever they want to perform. Their "shows" last 5 or 6 hours and attract a few hundred kids every week.

The camp was held at a Rotary campground about 20 minutes away. The 65 kids stayed for 2 days and 2 nights, living 4 to a room in small dorms. The agenda was a mix of lectures and play. Nceba and Zolile lined up speakers on drugs, crime, and self-improvement who did a great job engaging the kids in discussion. The play time was divided into outdoor activities and dance classes (Zolile is a DJ, and he has many friends who are semi-pro dancers). By all accounts it was a very successful event and all of the kids enjoyed themselves.

I got to attend because I paid for their food. It seemed like a small thing to do to give these kids a diversion from normal township life. During lunch I had a really stimulating talk with 3 of the adults about tribalism in South Africa and how it's still interfering with unity amongst the Blacks. Most people probably think that South Africa's problems are primarily a Black and White problem. After listening to these men, it sounds like it's also a Black and Black problem. It seems that every week I hear of a new cog that needs alignment in order to move the big machine forward. That's why it will be at least 2 generations before this country really starts humming.

Two other cogs are accountability and social responsibility. I read an article in the newspaper yesterday that the garbage in portions of Phillipi (where my clinic is) has not been picked up for 6 months. It seems that the government forgot to award the tender and no one bothered to get the job done. They have moved on it recently, and now there's a fight amongst 3 vendors about who has the best community connections. People living in the township have thrown rocks at some workers of certain companies because they don't like the company (not politically connected or not Black-owned). The mayor is threatening to bring in Army personnel to protect the workers from the citizenry. I've seen the trash, and I cannot believe how people can prevent its collection. It's a real health hazard, especially with the recent rainfalls, but some people don't seem to care or understand.

Wednesday evening I spent 5 hours in the KTC Day Hospital, an urgent care of sorts in Guguletu. It was one of the most disgusting places I've been to. The process started when I walked into the Centre at 4:15 after painting with my GLA students. Two women from the HIV support group were waiting there for Zach to help them take another support group member to the clinic. They asked if I had time to take them, and I said sure, thinking it was a quick trip. The woman, Notozama, had been sick for many days and was feeling very weak. She got infected with HIV in late 2006. According to her mother, up to then she was a very beautiful, dynamic woman with a good job. After she got infected her boyfriend "disappeared" and she started to wither away. She stopped eating and just slept all day. When I saw her, she looked to be about 90 pounds, if that. She could barely walk to the car, and every step came with a grunt of pain. We got to the day hospital at about 4:45. They didn't think it would take very long, and there was some hope she'd be admitted to hospital, so I hung around to give them a ride back home or to the hospital.

She was finally taken to a room at about 6:00. Half an hour later, she was taken for a chest x-ray. (As soon as I saw that I thought of TB. About half of all HIV-positive people here also have TB, and it can cause wasting similar to HIV.) Her mother came from work about this time and went back to sit with her. Then, about 7:30, her mother said the doctor was going to give her a drip (an IV), but only a pint so it wouldn't take very long. So, more waiting.

During this time I saw people of all ages come in for treatment. There was the man with the bloody leg (either a fracture or a knife wound), the woman with a head wound (she either fell or got something thrown at her), the man with the stab wound in his back (who proceeded to bleed all over one of the benches), and two kids with head wounds from falling down. There was also a woman with a cold, a woman having bad abdominal pains, and other run-of-the-mill urgent care stuff. The odd thing was that everyone was talking to everyone else, almost like they knew each other. I don't recall seeing that in any other ER I've been to. People generally keep to themselves and don't share their life stories. Not here.

At one point Notozama's mother asked me to sit with her, because she was saying she wanted to leave. I went back and spent a little time, convincing her that she needed the drip and that it would be over soon. As she dozed in and out I had the chance to look around. What a contrast to Brown's Farm Clinic. Our clinic is nearly brand new and very well maintained. The day hospital had seen better days. The gurney Notozama was laying on had dried blood in the grooves between its parts. There were blood drops in the walls, alongside the dirt and mud stains (I imagine someone had kicked mud off their shoes at one point and it never got cleaned up). The storage lockers for the IVs and supplies were a mess. There is little privacy, with 3 beds to a room and no curtains between them. I guess it's better than nothing, though, which is what much of rural South Africa has.

We finally left the clinic at about 10:30. Notozama was scheduled to go to the TB clinic the following morning to get started on TB medications. Once that's stabilized, which will take 2-3 months, then she'll start on HIV medications. Hopefully, these will allow her to get her appetite and energy back so she can start living again.

Yesterday was the last day for the GLA program. We got a lot of painting done, more than I expected. We finished about 90% of the outside and all of the inside, save two small offices. They had a fair amount of time to interact with the local kids, playing games and just giving hugs. They also spent two afternoons this week with the after-school program, helping kids read and do homework. It was a really great experience for me, to see some of our future leaders in action. One other nice thing: During their class presentation about their experiences they voted me one of the top 100 people in the world. That made me feel good. I'm attending their closing dinner tonight, which should be fun.

Off to work now. More to come.