All posts for the month April, 2015


Published April 15, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

I went to Greece for Easter holiday. Here’s a photo update! 


Travel buddies!


The food was to die for.


Everything is hella beautiful.


Like hella.


And really old.


With so much history.


And culture.


Those ancient Greeks really knew what they were doing.


It’s quite impressive.


Stray cats & dogs everywhere.


Theater was a huge part of ancient Greece.


Like really huge.


They took it very seriously.


Theaters everywhere.


Hydra is an incredible island. Can you say retirement destination??


No cars allowed. The only transportation is via horse or donkey.


Trotted all the way up the mountainside.


Feline fest.


The Panathenaic Stadium was probably my favorite place to be.


And run.


And sit.


People love their art installations here. Hand crafts everywhere.


More food. Because…food.


Ancient Greece also had libraries.


Where people could gather to share written and spoken word.


Headless and armless statues everywhere. Sometimes intentional, sometimes not.


How can something built over 2,000 years ago still be standing!??!


What a beautifully enriching experience.



In The Trenches

Published April 2, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

A little update on what I’ve been doing so far this year with work!

In an effort to target HIV & TB, the South African Department of Health and its partners teamed up for some serious outreach campaigning. After months of planning events for HTAs (high-transmission areas) geared toward high-risk population groups, we finally got to put our plans in motion and boy, was it chaotic! Our plan was to focus efforts, manpower and resources on 3 population groups that we felt needed a little TLC in regards to health services- college students, mine workers and public transportation drivers. With all of the partner organizations, we had a full array of health care services available to offer- HIV Counseling & Testing, also testing for Tuberculosis, STIs, high-blood pressure, high-blood sugar and other minor ailments, as well as Implanon implantations, Medical Male Circumcision, family planning consultations and male and female condom demonstrations  and distribution.

With over half a dozen service providers ready to work, we began by targeting the FET (tertiary) colleges of Sekhukhune. I personally enjoy working with college students- they’re energetic and curious and easy to talk to…it makes my job more fun. It is also particularly important to target the college student population because statistically speaking, new cases of transmission are reported most frequently within this group. Working at the colleges is always lively and loud. We worked until very late in the evenings, always having to leave behind a line of students because daylight ran out.

Next we moved on to the mines. South Africa is the leading exporter [in the entire world] for platinum and chrome. Men from all over the country, and neighboring countries, flood to the mines to find work, and are often times forced to rent accommodation in proximity to the mines- meaning they are far from their families for extended periods of time. Many of these men seek out the comfort of sex workers and alcohol, putting everyone involved at high risk for transmission of HIV, TB and other infectious diseases. In addition to targeting these migrant workers for health outreach, we made special efforts to target hard-to-reach mining villages that have been developed subsequently around the mines. These tiny communities are built in pockets of the Tubatse mountains, making access to primary health care, schools, and general civilization very difficult. Never before had I been in an place where illiteracy was so centralized and ubiquitous, but the people were so kind. When we find people testing positive for HIV or TB, we must triangulate them into a treatment plan and enforce treatment adherence. This is a difficult task when resources are scarce and there is a lack of proper health education that would normally provide a platform for promoting the importance of accessing health care services. Not to mention the language barrier, SHEESH. I put my Sepedi skills to work, that’s for sure.

Lastly, we moved on to targeting drivers of taxis and buses. We partnered up with the Department of Transportation to gain access into bus and taxi ranks where we could set up mobile clinics so drivers could easily access health services. Drivers are considered a high-risk population for similar reasons as mine workers- they are predominantly men who travel frequently. In addition to spending a lot of time away from their homes, drivers of public transportation here have somewhat of a reputation for being young, promiscuous and socially deviant. They function in society as a sort of mafia where they hold a monopoly over public transit and a level of self-proclaimed power but generally speaking, they are deprecated in communities.

But regardless of a person’s vocational sector, every person has a right to access quality health care with dignity, and counseling services with compassion; we as an agency for change are striving to reach even the most marginalized groups in an effort to reduce global incidence of HIV and other infectious diseases. HIV is a very complex virus and there are many social, cultural, medical and economical reasons is has run so rampant around the globe, particularly in South Africa. It is an honor to be part of an organization that embodies my own ideals for health outreach and allows me to pursue my passion for providing health service to improve qualify of life.


Soooo this is what I’ve been up to lately. Time to bounce out for Easter holiday!

Smooches ❤

Races: #6. MOTN Marathon

Published April 1, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

A.K.A. The Marathon With No Music.

(More on that later).

We were up by 4:45 and in the car on the road by 5am. It would be roughly an hour and half drive to the starting area, plus time to find parking and hit up the registration tent before the start gun went off at 7am…we had barely enough time for it all, but we managed. In the car ride we listened to the news radio and the weather forecast for Polokwane (Northern Limpopo) said there would be thunderstorms all day. I instantly took my iPod out of my race waist pack and tucked it away in the car for fear that it would get rained on if I brought it to the race. I’m so happy I did this because as I rushed to the registration tent, there was an announcement over the speakers that forbid the use of listening devices on the race course. Phew, dodged a bullet there.

The race was organized by Pietersburg Road Runners Athletic Club, and hosted at Mall Of The North- a small shopping mall in Northern Limpopo. This was a wonderful place to hold a race because it meant that afterward we wouldn’t have to go anywhere for lunch- we were already at a mall with a ton of restaurant options. My Host Mom and I attached our bibs to our shirts, we wished each other good luck on our runs for the morning (she was running the 5k race) and I ran over to find a spot around the start line near two other Peace Corps volunteers who were also running (Katie- running the 42.2km with me, and Nic running the 21.1km.) I heard the soft thud of the start gun and slowly all 200+ runners began slowly shuffling along, I waited for everyone to spread out enough to pick up speed. Although I was nervous to not have music to run with, I trotted along with my friends for the first few kilometers trying to keep my mind occupied with conversation. Eventually our paces scattered and we wouldn’t see each other again until the finish line.

The beauty of nature and running outdoors does keep ones thoughts pretty uplifted, and I thoroughly enjoyed this race course. I had studied the course description ahead of time so I knew what terrain to prepare myself for and when and where to expect the hills, other than that I trotted along at a meandering 10min/mile pace knowing I could maintain this and still make the 5 hour cut-off time at the finish line. I was quite impressed with the quality and selection of aid at the aid stations. Not only was each tent fully stocked with cold water and the typical Coca Cola, but there was Powerade(!!!!), bananas, oranges, gummies, biscuits, chocolates, you name it. Every other station or so also had Vaseline (which my thighs were thankful for) and sunscreen (which my shoulders were thankful for) and port-o-potties (which my tummy was thankful for). I’m still not exactly sure what caused my GI upset that day, and I’m not completely ruling out that it might have just been nerves and excitement that caused some rumble in the jungle. In either case, my potty breaks added at least 5 minutes or so to my final finishing time…ironically enough- I still PR’ed with this marathon.

The course was a double loop of the 21.1km course. I like courses like this because I run the first half of the marathon then run the same thing again…so I know what to expect and where and how it feels. Life is easy peezy this way! The course was ran through some back roads, dirt roads and quite neighborhoods of Polokwane, with a majority being asphalt running – which my knees didn’t exactly enjoy. Every now and then there would be a 1 kilometer stretch of dirt/gravel and I looked forward to these stretches because I knew I could pick up speed and gain some ground quickly on this terrain, then slow my roll once I hit pavement again. This is the second marathon in which I’ve left behind my knee braces. I’ve committed myself to rehabilitating my knees and re-strengthening my quads while also properly tracking my patellar tendons. My rehabbing has proven successful now I can run 26.2 miles without needing to brace up – it’s the little things 🙂 I was constantly checking the time and monitoring my pace, knowing that I had a full 5 hours to run this course, and having no doubt in my mind I would finish. I strolled through the halfway mark a little over 2 hours in…taking my sweet time, I figured I’d just enjoy the ride have fun…that’s what this about after-all, right!? The forecasted thunderstorms never hit during the race, but dark clouds loomed over us  almost the whole time and this provided relief from the anguishing sunshine. Boy, never have I been to grateful to have clouds in the sky!

With 2 kilometers left to go and 40 minutes left until cutoff time, I knew I didn’t have to rush so I started walking (lol). I walked with 2 very sweet older men who were wearing matching tanks from a local running club. We chatted about a lot of random things…pacing, diet, hydration, but they insisted on asking me what my vegetarian diet consists of (fascinated that anyone can survive without eating meat) and talking them through my meal prep. Lol, if only they knew. I simply said CUT THE ANIMAL FAT OUT OF YOUR LIFE and see where that takes you. 😉 I realized we had been walking and talking for almost 20 minutes! Where does the time go?? We had 1 final hill to climb and the finish line awaited us just over the top. I said “Lets go guys! Lets finish this strong!” Leading the pack, I sprinted upward and into the final loop then around the corner to victory!

I crossed the finish line and collected my medal and t-shirt. My host mom and 3 Peace Corps volunteers waited for me at the finish line with warm hugs and cold drinks. It was a whirlwind of congratulations and photos, then we made our way over to a tent to rest under some shade. I saw 3 other runners from my community gym, which made me very happy because I had been posting flyers and advertising for this race all around my gym in hopes that I could recruit some runners to join me. And it worked!! Two women ran the 5k, one ran the 10k, another ran the 21.1k and I ran the 42.2km. We waited at least another hour for the last volunteer to finish her 42.2, then we strolled into the mall for lunch and drinks. I felt a slight stiffness in my quads and tightness in my calves, but overall my feeling of accomplishment and joy overruled any pain that might have existed. I was floating on a cloud, happy as a clam.

I have taken a couple significant pieces from this race experience: 1. Confirmation that music is a big part of my life. Especially when running. Having to run over 4 hours without any music was pretty mentally challenging. There are dark periods of every race where the mind wanders into rough patches of negative thoughts and I always rely on uplifting trance to blow some melodic tunes through my brain…it dissolves any thoughts that might be detrimental to my performance. This race forced me to find alternate ways to maintain a happy mindset and break out of any negative cycles I found myself in. 2. Now I feel confident about saying I can graduate to Ultra-marathoning and successfully run a 50k next. I felt really good crossing the finish line, and if that finish line had been an extra 8k away, I know I would have crossed that as well.

IMG_2484 Stay tuned for more race updates!!