Tuesday, August 3, 2010

I can't believe its almost over!!

This year has been one of those years that I will remember for the rest of my life. As I look through some of the pictures I have, I cannot believe all of the places I have been, and what I have learned, culture, people, but mostly things about myself. I just had dinner with some of the interns that have been spread through various parts of South Africa and it was truly amazing to see how different our experiences were. Many of them lived in one or two places, had a home, and the comfort a routine(as much as one could expect for being an intern). I just realized that since January I have not been in one place longer than 7 weeks, which means I was pretty much a nomad. But I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it and have met some pretty amazing people along the way.

First, was my dear friend Rose. She was the administrative assistant for the project I was working on in Northern Namibia. For the entire month of May I stayed at her house over the weekends when I wasn’t traveling around the bush. I must say that we had so much fun together, watching movies, cooking (as best I could for northern Namibia), and just hanging out and talking. It really reminded me of my days at Eastern Oregon University, where TL and I lived together, we had so much fun. Especially, when her 3 year old daughter came, who spoke very little English. She would run in my room in the morning and say Morning Sarah, it was so cute. Rose and I truly became great friends, can’t wait till she comes to the US to visit me.

Additionally, this trip to northern Namibia, I stayed on a village, with Mathew and his family. This was a once in a lifetime kind of experience!! On the village there is running water, but no electricity and at night we used flashlights to get around. They also asked me if I wanted a bucket in my room so I could go to the bathroom at night, I passed! I just decided to hold it, but thought the offer was nice. During the day when you can see and walk to the toilets, they are just glorified porta-potties, but very clean.

So growing up I thought that unloading the dishwasher and cleaning the bathroom was a chore, boy was I wrong. During the month long holiday in May, the kids in northern Namibia harvest the field. They would be out working in the field by 6:30 am and be done around two in the afternoon and one boy gets the job of watching the animals all day.

But the nights on the village were very fun, it reminded me of camping. Each night the girls would cook over the fire and make the traditional porridge (pop) and some sort of meat. Also, the small girls and I would play together, it really was fun. The first night I was there they would barely look at me because they had never had a white person staying at their house, by the next afternoon we were the best of friends.

After my month long stint in Namibia, I headed to Johannesburg for the World Cup Mania. The atmosphere was amazing, but I worked so much the only parts I really got to enjoy were the matches, and most the other time, I was exhausted. We ran 4 weeks of 5-6 day holiday camps. With roughly a hundred kids at each camp. In Soweto, the township right outside of Johannesburg, we ran 10 camps during the 4 weeks. I was a camp director, left my house at 5:45 am and didn’t get home until well after 7 pm most nights. It was exhausting, but I love the kids and our coaches!! In hindsight it was worth it all the way.

And I went to about 10 World Cup Games including the opener. Some of the games we would take kids from the holiday camp (600 was the most we took) and that will be some of my fondest memories of the world cup. I had taught some of our Grassroot Soccer coaches, the boom-chica-boom call and response song. Let’s just say I humiliated myself on more than one occasion shouting out a boom-chica-boom and for a little over a month I had no voice. I really enjoyed just being a fan of sport. It has been a while since I have been that heartbroken over a soccer game. When the USA beat Slovenia to make it to the next round, I was so excited, it was the most amazing goal, then when they lost to Ghana, I cried. It was so much fun, I can’t believe it’s not on for another 4 years.

My favorite games were the opener, Italy vs Slovakia, Ghana vs Uruguay and any game that Spain or Argentina played in(man their fans are fun). Let’s just say, going to the world cup will make you want to travel the world, there are so many interesting people to meet. However, the highlights of all of the matches will always be the kids and our GRS coaches, and how excited they got. It truly was a blessing.

After the World Cup was over, I traveled to Mozambique. It is the most amazing country and I only saw a small portion of it. I didn’t really have time to plan this trip out, I got a place to stay and transport there and that was about it. Luckily, I had a friend from college who was working for FIFA in Johannesburg and he joined me on this adventure (lets just say it’s a good thing we are both easy going).

First, in Johannesburg I stayed with the most amazing family, sadly I do not have photos!! They adopted me for the month and a half I was there, let me eat with them and cooked me dinner on my birthday. It was AWESOME, the second place I lived in Africa and felt at home. So, the owners of the guest house gave Jason and I a ride to the Joburg bus station, in a bad part of town around 9:30 pm. Our bus leaves at 10:00 pm, so we see a line full of people standing in front of a sign that says Maputo (Mozambique’s capital). We wait in line, talk, and get to the front and realize, oh wrong bus company!! All I could say was awesome!! Our bus had already left and there was no room on this one, so we had to wait another day and take the bus in the morning. Lets just say not my brightest moment in life.

SO the next morning we try again, and take the 8 hour bus ride from Johannesburg to Maputo. The backpackers where we are staying is suppose to pick us up at the bus station, they no showed. So we take a taxi to the backpackers and they had lost our reservation and told me that they were full and we would have to go somewhere else. Literally, at this point, I just said okay and was ready to find something else, but luckily Jason started asking more questions. Which lead to them finding our reservation. We only stayed in Maputo, one night but it was really neat and the crowd at the backpackers was really fun.

The next morning we woke up at 5 am to catch another 8 hour bus to Tofo, a touristy beach area (luckily this was low season so not a whole lot of tourist). Anyway, since Jason and I were the last to purchase tickets for the shuttle we got the two worst seats in the house. Jason’s was broken to the side and back which meant he pretty much sat in my lap/laid on me the entire way. Luckily it was cloudy because the bus as you can see from the photo the bus was packed and very uncomfortable, so added heat was not needed. Also, it is only 410k distance, should be 4 hours, but because the quality of the roads is so poor it takes so long.

Throughout this bus ride, I would start to feel sorry for myself and then I would see the guy who helped the driver, he stood the entire way, pressed against the metal pole of the door. He probably had the most uncomfortable position ever. So whenever I would start to feel sorry for myself, I would look at him, laugh and get over myself. I pretty much laughed the whole way there.

But once we got to Tofo, everything just fell into place, and I slept, played soccer, volleyball, cards and swam in the Indian Ocean. I don’t think I have had that type of relaxation in over 4 years, it truly was a blessing. Additionally, it was nice not to travel alone and travel with someone who I have known more than a year. I was very thankful for my traveling buddy.

After Mozambique I had to get back to Cape Town, to say goodbye, as so many of the people I know were leaving. I could have spent a few more days in Mozambique, one day I hope to go back. But it has been really nice to be in Cape Town to say goodbye to other interns and friends who are leaving but also to enjoy living in Cape Town, without being so busy. Each day, I go into the office, work a little, apply for jobs,then leave around 12:00 and go for a run/hike/read a book. I am enjoying every minute of it!!

I head back to the US on the 19th of August and I am stopping in London for a couple of days to visit with friends!! Then back to Knoxville, I am still working on what to do next!! I guess that is what is so exciting about my life right now, the world is at my fingertips, I just need to figure out where I want to go.

With Love,


Friday, May 14, 2010

What is the Fascination Between the Road and the Donkey!!

First, I would like to introduce you to the Northern Namibia traffic officer, the donkey.

They are all over the road (along with goats and cows) but as Ruben said it best “ I don’t understand what the fascination is between the donkey and the road?”

Sarah and Ruben

Ruben is one of four community project coordinators for Skillz Namibia, a program that Grassroot Soccer provides technical assistance (consulting) to in Northern Namibia. For the next four weeks I will be traveling around the different parts of the three regions completing evaluations and gathering information on how the program is working. It is very challenging because everything is so spread out. Someone once told me that “your team is only as strong as its weakest player” and that is the outlook I take when doing this work. I am really enjoying this type of work.

Ruben is a teacher at one of the rural schools. He and one of his cousins are the only people in his family to graduate from grade 12 and go on to college. I really enjoyed spending a week with him. You learn so much about a person that way. He told me today, that for him, this was definitely a week to remember. I don't think he realizes, that it is the same for me!

One thing that made me laugh was his desire to go to Hollywood and meet Michael Jackson (before he died), Brittany Spears and Eminem. American Pop Culture is everywhere.

Rubens Brother, Cousin, Nephew and Niece

I stayed at a hotel in Tsandi, Namibia a very small town. The shower in my room was so gross that I choose not to shower for 4 days over using the one provided. Last nights shower was AWESOME. Also, I am so thankful that I brought my own sheets and blanket to Africa, it has been a life saver a few times.

Anyway, accommodation aside, it was an amazing week. One of my highlights from this week was driving through the BUSH in a small car and Ruben telling me just go straight; when the road split. Every night I had to drive him to his family’s village about 15 minutes into the Bush and pick him up in the morning. The first night he had his cousin come with me and stay in Tsandi so that he could help me drive back in the morning. However, after that I had to figure it out for myself, turn right at the second school sign and just go straight. It was such an adventure every time.

Heading into the Bush, see the road on the left, take it and drive straight
Lucas, Rubens Cousin

Over the course of 4 days, I probably drove 1000 Kilometers, on normal, dirt, and gravel roads. We completed 4 coach support visits (evaluating a coach while they are implementing with kids), 6 Thermometer Checks (interview guide that is used when coach is not implementing) and a development course for 6 coaches.

During the Coach Support Visit, I just sit back and observe how the coach facilitates the activity and give feedback. I try really hard to not just say good job or this needs work but give specific examples. GRS uses behaviour based coaching, where I have to show the coach how to improve facilitation, this can be tough. It really makes me pay attention. These visits are more valuable and enjoyable when when the coach takes the time to know the material and takes the program seriously. It is so easy to tell who puts in a lot of effort and those who don’t. Therefore, my job is too continue to encourage the one’s that do great work and to find a way to change the attitudes of the ones who don’t take it as seriously. This has made me think back to all of those times that sports coaches and teachers were trying to push me to do better and I thought I was good enough or just didn’t listen. I think I learn more and more about myself each day.

Coach Support Visit, Outapi Namibia

Coach Support Visit: Ruccana Namibia

The thermometer checks are interview guides that help me get information on the interventions without observing an intervention. We had a few of these that were really challenging and sometimes its hard not to show frustration with the coach. The good thing about gathering this kind of information, is that I know get to create a plan to simplify the process and support the coaches. I love this kind of programmatic development.

The development course was such a highlight of the week. I feel blessed that Grassroot Soccer trusts my judgment to plan out what will best develop these coaches and act upon it. We took 6 coaches that were either new or that could use a lot more support and guidance on how facilitate an activity or how to best use their coaches guide. I split them up into three teams of two and had them facilitate a whole intervention (practice) with local community kids. We started with about 15 kids and by the end there were about 30.

It is fun to be able to give help and encouragement on this platform because you can see how just a little advice and support can help to futher develop the coach. For me, this was a really encouraging day. It is so special to watch people get excited about what they are doing.

While driving the 1000k’s, I got to see a lot of the Namibia country side, including: women fishing, different tribes and the Rucana Falls, which are on the Angola border.

Fishing in Omwifi, Namibia

Women of the Himba Tribe - very close to Angola

The Angola Border- haven't gone there yet.. no real plans too

Ruccana Water Falls - Namibia/Angola Border

Stay tuned for next week as I will be staying with a CPC in their village. No electricity etc. Every week is going to be new and exciting.

My Week Long Holiday

A couple weeks ago my boss told me that I needed to go on vacation because I worked too much. I don’t have a lot of extra money for vacations so I did it the cheapest way possible. I got a 60 US dollar flight to Johannesburg, got a ride to Lesotho, rode a minibus for 1 hour to Kimberly (70 Rand, 10 US dollars) and a 12 hour long bus ride Kimberly to Cape Town (40 US dollars). If you look at a map,I covered a lot of ground for very little money.

I flew to Johannesburg and spent a night with some of my friends there. This was a pretty exciting way to start the journey, as I had no expectations for this leg of the trip.I think that is why it was so much fun.I went to a movie in the mall, saw a store that sold Gap clothes (they were way too expensive 2 times the US price) and then went to Soccer City (the stadium where they are going to play the world cup finals). I got to meet a ton of South African professional soccer players, actors, rappers and wealthy members of the community. However, I still don’t know who many of them are. It was such a blast.

After my one night in Joburg, I went to Lesotho to visit my friend Lindy. She had 3 friends coming from Botswana to visit her and they picked me up a long the way. All of the girls I was traveling with were doctors who graduated from Vanderbilt Medical School (Nashville, TN). They work at the Baylor clinics in Botswana and Lesotho.What they do is amazing, it made me wish I had followed that early life dream to be a doctor. However, body fluids don’t sit well with my stomach; so it never would have worked.

I was so excited to be surrounded by people that lived in Tennessee. (if you have ever heard the Rodney Atkins song “These Are My People” that is what I felt like)
One of the nights we drove up to Semonkong, Lesotho. It is an amazing drive on the world’s worst road; pot holes everywhere. But it was completely worth it. This place was so peaceful, the lodge had amazing food and was right next to a creek. While we were there we did an abseil down the 217 meter waterfall.

Part of what is so neat about this abseil is you have to hike out, and it is one of the greatest hikes I have ever been on. Absolutely Amazing.

We also went on a donkey pub crawl, which was hilarious. Five American Girls riding donkeys through Semonkong, the whole town was laughing at us. We actually only stopped at one place had a traditional meal and then headed back to the lodge, but that was one of the funniest things I have ever done. I can honestly say that I was so thankful for the time I spent with Whitney, Bree, Leigh and Lindy, they are good people and it was so nice to hang out with them.

Next I went to Kimberly South Africa. GRS has 3 interns there and I just went to spend a couple of days with them. Here is where I really relaxed, read a book, watched a movie and just hung out. It was so nice. It really was the perfect vacation.

Girlz Got Skillz

And finally, the biggest project I have ever completed, Girlz got Skillz. I put everything I had into this event and it was worth it. IT ROCKED!!Photographs courtesy of Caroline Kaminju and Girlz Got SKillz funder and partners Johnson & Johnson, Grassroot Soccer and the Academy of Educational Development.

For more photos and information check out Girlz Got Skillz on Facebook.

The participants completed a Resiliency Race, photo/video scavenger hunt around downtown Cape Town and with the help of other GRS interns created power point presentations to share with the group.
The ladies of GGS had a lunch with influential women from South Africa.

Juggling My Life, one of Grassroot Soccer's SKILLZ activities

Welcome to My Community, a tour of Khayelitsha through the eyes of a Grassroot Soccer Skillz Coach- one of my favorite activities
Skillz Coach Tesh getting her team ready for a Skilla Practice
All participants of Girlz Got Skillz at Signal Hill in Cape Town
Grassroot Soccer Skillz coach getting her team ready for a SKILLZ activity
Girls playing soccer during the final day of soccer at the Football for Hope Centre in Khayelitsha South Africa.
The Premier of the Western Cape, Helen Zille join Girlz Got Skillz on Saturday during the Community Sport and Health Fair.She is AWESOME!!

Here are some links to articles that have been written about Girlz got Skillz, if you are interested in reading more about it.



It is interesting to see how people write about an event like this, especially since the program for the entire week and some of the activities were things I created or adapted. I would love to do something like this again

With Love,


P.S. I wish that my Grandma Mary and Uncle Greg could hear and see what I am doing, I think they would be so proud and excited. I miss them both dearly.