Tag Archives: JAG Foundation

Five weeks in South Africa

On September 14 I will be boarding a plane for – easily! – the longest flight I have ever taken. Twenty-nine hours later (including a full day of pubbing in London; looking forward to seeing you Roxy) I will land in Johannesburg, South Africa, where I will get a connecting inter-country flight to East London, a city on the eastern cape. After three years of living alone (if you don’t count the company of my cat Mendoza, and his cat, Noodle) I will be moving in with Craig – a man whom I have known for a full 760 minutes, or the time it takes to play 8 games of soccer.

I met Craig in London, U.K. when we were both drafted to the same soccer team for the duration of an international tournament, and we instantly recognized each other as the groovy and outstanding folks were are. Facebook makes fostering these tenuous and distant relationships simple, and for the next year we stayed in touch with the occasional “like” or status comment. I am pretty sure we never poked each other, and when I saw that he’d moved to South Africa to continue his research work in the AIDS and HIV field, I filed it away under “won’t see him at next year’s tourney”.

In the early summer of 2009, my contract ended and I found myself underemployed. Worse, I couldn’t even contemplate what I wanted to do next. I felt utterly exhausted, uninspired, disconnected, and more than a little sorry for myself. In search of adventure and meaning, I began exploring “voluntourism” opportunities. For several weeks I lived on the fantasy of spending a glorious fortnight in Costa Rica massaging baby sea turtles. But the more I looked, the more skeptical I became, and that’s when I remembered Craig. Given his work and travel connections, I figured he’d be just the guy to talk to about legit opportunities.

Craig responded to my inquiry with the bouncy energy I remembered from the field, and so when he invited me to fly across the world to live with him for a month while I volunteered (“Don’t worry – I will find you a ditch to dig or some policy to change!”), I accepted. The days since I booked my flight have been legendarily busy. What do I know about volunteering, about living with someone for a month, about travelling across the world alone? What do I know about South Africa? Apartheid, wine, elephants? Apparently not penguins, as I had thought. “Well, I saw a dead one wash up on shore once,” Craig told me. “But that’s probably not what you’re after.” Indeed.

So, I am going to South Africa, and it looks like I will be doing volunteer work with several organizations. One group that I have had quite a bit of contact with, the (non-denominational) Loaves and Fishes Network needs some help with their web site and communications. How perfect. I have also been in contact with someone from JAG Foundation, which seems to be an organization in the vein of Right to Play. And in a rather cryptic note from Craig last night, he mentioned a sustainable gardening project that might need some ditches dug.

The short lead time between booking and flight has thrown my fund raising plans into mighty disarray so I have added a PayPal button to this blog. If you want to contribute to what I am trying to accomplish, or if you enjoy the writing, please make a donation.



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