Rachel Vernon
Rachel Vernon
South Africa, 2022
Hi, my name is Rachel, I will be going to Cape Town, South Africa for 6 months to work with Volunteer Solutions. I plan to work in elementary schools with sports development and work in a local clinic. Read More About Rachel →

Spring Break Adventures

Meeting up with Nori at the World Cup of Field Hockey after playing Ireland

Hi everyone! I’m back! Here’s the update... Last week I was on spring break! Crazy how it is flipped due to the change in the climate. My spring break started by going to the World Cup Field Hockey Tournament for women and men 50+. My friend Nori Smith plays on the 55+ team. It was so much fun cheering her on! Hearing people speak with an American accent sounded foreign, so weird how I have gotten used to the South African accents. I watched USA versus Ireland and USA versus South Africa. I also cheered on the USA men’s team. Fortunately, Hinse, the other volunteer at the host family, loves field hockey and was explaining all the rules to me!

Outside the courthouse with the “NON-WHITE” benches

Later in the week Hinse and I went on a free walking tour downtown. I learned a little more about the apartheid and the different classes of people. For example, the black population was not recognized as a citizen. There were a few tests to see if you were “black.” One was the pencil test, which is where you put a pencil in your hair and shake your head. If it stayed in your hair, you were black, therefore could not be a citizen. We even saw benches that were recreated to replicate the “WHITES ONLY” and “NON-WHITE” benches.

I also learned a little more about District 6. This area was predominantly African Muslims. The government also did not recognize this group of people as citizens. However, the African Muslims who lived in district 6 was pushed out of the area and the houses were torn down. Even if you were still in the house, they were going to bulldoze the area. The government promised them that they would get reimbursed, but to this day no one ever saw any reimbursement or development on that land. I have plans of going to the district 6 museum which was created by people who lived in that area. They brought clothes, tables, newsletters, and anything they could find to bring to the museum so that this history would be preserved.

14 piece wood arch outside of the parliament

Another interesting fact I learned was that an arch symbolizes strength, similar to the St. Louis Arch. The arch, that is pictured below, has 14 strands of wood that symbolizes the 14 chapters of the South African constitution. The arch is also found next to St. George’s Cathedral, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu was known for his campaigns regarding the apartheid.

Hinse and I also went on another hike to Newlands Forest. It was so nice to get out, but the heat is coming!

Last week was the first week back to school. I didn’t know how much I missed the kids. We have now formed a relationship of mutual respect. For instance, they do not fight (as much) when playing soccer because they know there will be consequences (going back to class and missing the rest of the PT). I have set loving boundaries to help everyone have more fun, and it has helped PT to run smoother and more enjoyable.

I also have exciting news! I recently accepted a job at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on floor 5S in the Cardiovascular Progressive Care unit. I will start on February 27th, 2023. This will allow me enough time to get settled and move back to Nashville. When people ask where I am from, I proudly say, Tennessee! It feels so good calling Tennessee home! I also signed a lease on an apartment in Nashville, so it’s official, I’M COMING BACK!

Having to interview at 8 or 9 pm was comical. I would shout to the house, “I’M JUMPING ON AN INTERVIEW NOW” so they would know to be quiet. I am so glad that is over and I can mentally prepare to work as a nurse! Planning the new job, and apartment and the logistics of furniture have all made me a little homesick. I am so excited about these exciting decisions and have struggled to stay where my feet are. I am on a trip of a lifetime, I need to stay present-

Painting by Johannes Phokela at the Zeitz Museum

minded and enjoy my time here. I try to have grace with myself because I can’t always be present-minded. Being away from home has made me appreciate things back home.

I also went to the Zeitz Mocaa Art Museum, and that was amazing! One of the exhibits, by Johannes Phokela, expressed how blacks were treated by whites before the apartheid. It was very difficult to look at, but it was beautiful at the same time. Those paintings express history without using words.




Lastly, today (Monday, October 17th), we had nurses come to the school to give vaccinations. It was very interesting because they did not use gloves and charted on paper. I picked the nurse’s brains about their job and experience. Nurses here are called “sisters,” which is neat. It was such a fun and unique opportunity. It made me excited and a little nervous to be a nurse!

Table at the nurses station at the school

Well, until next time! Hope you’re enjoying the fall weather and changing leaves, I am sad I am missing my favorite season, so appreciate it a little more for me!

3 thoughts on “Spring Break Adventures”

  1. Wanted to also give some love the St. Louis arch! Woo woo!

    Question for you Rachel, in terms of architectural brilliance, does the St. Louis Arch compete with the arch you saw in South Africa?

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    Hudson Miller, CPA, MSA, BSN

    1. Both were beautiful in their own way! St. Louis arch was much bigger and you can go into it, and the one here, you just appreciate the architecture. Thanks for the question!

      Rachel Vernon, BSN, RN

  2. We were looking for a new letter and we did not find one, I reread this letter. You have had so many new experiences and recently, many sight-seeing trips. It is amazing that you were in South Africa when Nori came there to play field hockey! I am sure it was fun for both of you to spend time together. We are still smiling about your new job and apartment. I am sure it is a good feeling to know where you will live and work when you return to the states. We had a great visit with your mom and dad and really enjoyed having the dogs stay with us. Your plants made the trip from Illinois to Wisconsin and are now back in Ohio! We love you Rachel! Pa and Grandma

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