Monday, December 1, 2008


I like to think of myself as a very patriot Australian, but on Thursday, the day of Thanksgiving, I was proud to consider myself a temporary “American”. My best friend is American and in the past 6 years, I have visited the country 7 times, so I think I have a good appreciation of the culture and especially the significance of Thanksgiving.
Given that I am the sole Australian amongst a large group of American volunteers, I was particularly keen to show just how “American” I could be. I asked Courtney for her recipe for Pumpkin Pie as I was determined that this would be my contribution towards the festivities. Thanks to a trip into Manzini, I was able to source all the ingredients and I have to admit, the dessert turned out spectacularly and was one of the highlights of our celebration.
We all went to great lengths to obtain a turkey and I have to admit, Susan was the one who came up trumps. She got her hands on a 20lb (~10kg) bird that was killed and plucked the day before we tried to squeeze it into the oven. The turkey was the best I have ever tasted- perhaps due to its “freshness” and the fact that we had to “google” cooking times because none of us had ever cooked a turkey before.
The event turned into something much bigger than we ever imagined. Somehow, we ended up having two more Peace Corp volunteers join us as well as two other Americans that had arrived the day before to volunteer at the Good Shepherd for 12 months. It was a wonderful way for them to begin their stay. We also invited all the other doctors from the hospital and in total, we catered for about 25 people. It was very festive and everyone had a good time. Krisitin made her traditional dish of sweet potato combined with cranberries, cinnamon and marshmallow and whilst I was initially sceptical, I can now assure you that I am a definite convert to this unusual dish. She also made pumpkin cookies with cream cheese frosting (absolutely divine), whilst Chris cooked great mashed potatoes and Susan provided our vegetables. We had a lot of fun preparing the foods together and I will forever remember the “sisterhood” and “camaraderie” we felt as we tried to create a traditional American experience. Susan said it was perhaps the best Thanksgiving she had ever experienced, whilst it was unanimously voted that the pumpkin pies I made were the very best anyone had ever tasted (THANK YOU COURTNEY!). It was also an emotional night for all of us as it was my last night at Good Shepherd. I cried my eyes out when Dr Pons said grace and I also shed a tear when, at the end of the evening, it was just me and the true Americans. We sat in a circle and each spoke about 5 things we were truly grateful for. It was an incredibly special moment and something I will remember forever. Each of us had different things to say and each were deeply personal and meaningful. In summary (and you certainly get the abbreviated form), the five things I was most grateful for include:
My incredible family who have provided me with enormous support and encouragement and who didn’t think twice about coming all the way to Swaziland to see me whilst I am here.
My friends in America, Australia, Ireland and England who have emailed me, written to me, sent me letters and parcels and have put up with moments where I have almost gone insane whilst being in Swaziland.
My experience whilst being here in Swaziland. Even though it has been the most challenging and difficult experience of my life, I have learnt a lot about myself and the world around me and I think this makes for one extraordinary life.
The fact that I am a doctor and have been able to make a difference in peoples’ lives despite the lack of resources available to me.
My hair straightner- my experience here would have been a lot worse if I had to endure my “birds nest” hair.