Thursday, November 26, 2015

Lenka "Zoey" Juricekova - Thanksgiving Blog 2015

Do you have your own Lucias in your life? Let them know..

As a child, I spent most of my childhood in an orphanage. My mother used to work there as an educator and I loved that place so much. For me it was a symbol for hours of play, fun and friendship... and I never deeply thought about why my friends stayed in the orphanage while I am going home with my mother. Nor did I think about why my friends call my mother „Ms“, while I may call her „mum“.

...and then it happened. That picture I remember till today.. I was 7 and she was around 5. Extremely tiny girl with short blond hair was standing with me in the dark, hidden behind the doors, while we played hide and seek.
She suddenly asked me: “Is Miss Margita your mother? May I call her mother too?“ I remember how that question shocked me and the only feeling I had in that moment was the feeling of enormous pride. I felt proud and worthy, because I had something that someone else does not have .. without any attempt and endeavor. I was so proud, that I may call someone „my mother.“

This story comes to mind very often. How I was growing up, the emotion of pride has changed into many other emotions by that time. I felt sad about Lucia, I felt sort of guilty about her, and there was also a time when I felt angry about the world, which left the small Lucia behind the door, asking another strange girl, if she may call my mother mum as well. As I am older, all those feelings change to thankfulness.


Step out from your own ships
In Slovakia where I come from, we do not celebrate the holiday called Thanksgiving. It does not mean that we do not share our thoughts about what we are thankful for. Fortunately my family and my parents always lead me to express, minimally during the birthday celebration or during the Christmas dinner, what I am grateful and thankful for. At an early age, I really hated it and during the Christmas dinner I always argued with my brother, who would speak first. I think, in this case I am still on my way to growing up and learning how to be able to express loudly and address people how they make me feel grateful and thankful. And sometimes when I observe people around me, I think to myself - I am not the only one.

People usually know exactly, for what they would like to say „thank you“, when they lead their own inner monologues. But less often they are able to find accurate words, when they are supposed to express and share their gratefulness loudly. Sometimes we sail along the days faster than the Mayflower ship, which brought the first pilgrims, who first started to celebrate Thanksgiving. Similarly as the pilgrims from the Mayflower expect thew will come to the right place, we expect our thoughts about gratefullnes automatically will get to those, for whom they are devoted. ..Until the wind heads us off from our intended direction and we have to learn how to loudly name our position and let those people ashore to know about it..


Every day of your cruise

Approximately a half year ago I sailed on my own Mayflower ship to the United States. Together with pilgrimages – Humphrey fellows from all over the world. Complete strangers became my new friends, my new „Lucias“. I am proud that I know them, I am thankful for all their questions they ask me, and questions I can ask them.

Thanksgiving is typical american holidays which is not celebrated anywhere on the world. Wondering about how many unexpressed „votes of thanks“ are sailing across the oceans on personal ships and boats all over the world, I think it would be great to bring this kind of „intercultural shipment“ back to my country, as a part of Hubert Humphrey fellowSHIPs experience.. or maybe this one day in our calendars could be just perfect reminder how to start celebrating „thanksgiving“ every day..

While playing everyday hide and seek behind your own doors, while sailing on your own Mayflower every day.. do you have people on the shore, who makes your sailing meaningful? .. Let them know.. this day and every other day too. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone all over the world.


VCU Hubert Humphrey Fellows 2015 -2016 and what they are thankful and grateful for:

Natasa Tomic (Bosna and Herzegovina): “I am thankful for every day on this planet, for my son, my parents, brother, all other family and friends. I am grateful for being blessed to meet many great people and thankful for all opportunities life has given me. Thankful for health, for food, for smells and laughs, for words, for pictures...everything really.”

Mutaawe Rogers (Uganda):Usually thankful for the hospitality, time given by someone to see me or do something for me without expecting reward. Grateful for generosity, information, friendship..”

Usman Shamim (Pakistan): “I am thankful because I have everything that I desire. I keep myself happy in resources I have. I am grateful because I have patience.”

Jesica Beltrán (Peru): “Free good food make me feel thankful .. may sound funny .. , but I really appreciate a good food.”

Mariana Azcárraga (Mexico) : “I feel thankful to the fellowship opportunity. But I'm also grateful to all the people that we had helped us, I really really appreciate that.”

Mohamed Abdelghani Moustafa (Egypt):Hm .. so difficult questions.. but i can arrange them starting from the best - my family, my career position, my achievemennts, somewhat financial safety.”

Anthony Coetzer-Liversage (South Africa): “.There is so much I am grateful for.. I am grateful for Gods blessings and the opportunities he gives me daily; Humphrey program, humphrey colleagues, my husband, my children, my home, my family, for life, for being able to be of service...”

İlker Kayı (Turkey): Kindness.”

Mawouena K. Bohm (Togo): “ I am thankful for my life, my son and my family. I am grateful for all things I go through in my life, good and bad as well. All friends, situations and I want to say that God is great!”

Joseph Lahai (Sierra Leone): “Thankful and grateful to God for enabling my selection as a2015/16 Humphrey fellow. Thankful and grateful for good health and long live.”

Lenka “Zoey” Juríčeková (Slovak Republic): I feel thankful for friendship with all „Lucias“ I have met in my life so far, because they remind me what I have and what might be not so common for everyone... they remind me, what they have and what I am missing, but I can still find. I feel thankful I may call my closest one „family“..

Asia Ashraf (Pakistan): I am grateful for all the blessings of God in my life. I feel whatever I lost in life is because of me and whatever I found is just because of God. I am grateful for being blessed by caring family, friends and colleagues.I am so obliged to be the part of Humphrey Family. I feel thankful that I am chosen for this field, to serve humanity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

South African Braai Off @ the Globe with the Humphrey Fellows – October 3, 2015

In my last blog I put together a small survival guide, however, this time I will tell you all about the traditional “County Movie and Meal” days. Each month each country gets to select a movie from their own country for everyone to watch, while sharing in their traditional cultural food.
Usman, Mohammed, Ilker and I braaing
Usman, Mohammed, Ilker and I braaing
For me, a South African, what better way to share my beautiful culture and its experiences, than to host a Braai. For ease of understanding, let me explain what a braai is (if you were South African, I would not need to explain it). It is the Afrikaans word for “barbeque” or to roast. It is a cultural experience where “braaivleis” (braai = barbeque/roast and vleis=meat) is grilled. There is however a difference between a barbeque and a braai. This being that a braai is never doneover gas, unlike a barbeque!
The Braai
The grand social event, held in a casual and laid-back manner, normally involves family and friends, that gather at home, picnic spots or even the beach!  However the main attraction is the meat (boerewors = sausage, sosaties, marinated chicken, pork, lamb chops, steaks and various other sausages – if you are a coastal South African, you will often include crayfish and fish, such as snoek in the Western Cape), which has to be accompanied with salads and other side dishes.
For our braai at VCU, the main attraction was Boerewors (obtained from
I am explaining the food to everyone
I am explaining the food to everyone
Belmont Butchery) and coke marinated halaal chicken (from Richmond Halaal Markets). The boerewors is traditionally eaten on a roll (in the same fashion as a hot dog), and accompanied with relish, such as the chakalaka (a dish originally out of Soweto, which is spicy and made from tomato, onion – and some other ingredients you wish to include, such as peppers and baked beans) which was provided. Along with this was a typical Durban Vegetable Curry (A Durban curry is red, and generally hotter than most curries), served with: sliced banana, mango chutney, shredded coconut, tomatoe and onion relish & pampadums.
Day after cleanup
Day after cleanup
The other main part of the braai was the stavapap (a stiff maize/corn meal porridge), or krummelpap (“crumb porridge”), which is traditionally eaten with the meat. This is a staple dish of local African communities and is often eaten with tomato and onion sauce, or more spicy dishes like the chakalaka that was served at the braai. Of course with all this food, which was so readily enjoyed and consumed, there is always the day after! The benefit was that testing out The Globe’s facilities as a venue for hosting was a success, with children getting to play and enjoy themselves as well, while we ate in the large common kitchen area.
The Movie – Four Corners
The event was topped with the viewing of Four Corners, the story about GangstersFour cornerswithin the Mitchell’s Plein community within Cape Town. The movie, which was unfortunately not child friendly, was a great window into the life and circumstances of those living in Mitchells Plein. A community I have worked with for the past few years.
I could recommend this movie to anyone who would like to gain an understanding of the situation that drives our Substance Use issues within Cape Town.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Survival Guide for Humphrey Fellows

Survival Guide for Humphrey Fellows
 by Anthony Coetzer-Liversage
I am no journalist, author or blogger – but I will do my best to give you an idea of life as a Humphrey Fellow during your second month, because this is the month when you really begin to experience the true fellowship. It is the time of lectures, meetings, conferences and exploring your surroundings.

Bicycles as Transport

During this month, what I noticed is that you need to have yourself pretty well set up; it will allow you to make use of the last few weeks of summer. What I mean is, find a way to make transportation easier for you. What I did was get myself a bicycle, which was then quickly followed suite by half the other Humphrey Fellows (we may not have ridden bicycles in decades, but it was GREAT fun learning to again). It has been a life-saver to have them. So you may be asking, “Where can I get these?” Well that’s an easy one. I can give a few examples:

1.       Richmond Re-cycle shop – W Carry (near Carytown) – cheap secondhand bikes
2.       Colley Bike Shop – Carytown – good student discounts at the beginning of fall
3.       Bunnyhop Bike Shop – S Laurel Street – good secondhand bikes
4.       Walmart Superstore – for cheap bikes (ask if they have any that are damaged or at the back)

These are just a few, but you can look at the other bicycle shops in Carytown, however, prices may be a problem for you at these as they are not cheap. Where you look for your bike, depends on if you want to take it home, sell it at the end of your stay etc…It has been so helpful to me to have a bike, as on weekends I have been able to go site seeing, shopping, getting to lectures and even meetings if needed. The fun is, you can put your bikes on the GRTC buses and if you travel by the Amtrak trains to other cities, it is also possible to transport them on the train.

Thrift Shopping

To support your Humphrey experience during September (or even in the prior August month), I would strongly advise that you explore the Thrift shops (or if you prefer the term second hand goods shops), as they are a good source of inexpensive items that may help you to spread your budget somewhat. The ones that I (and a few of the other Humphrey Fellows) explored are (to list the largest ones):
1.       Salvation Army Thrift Store – Hermitage Str
2.       Diversity Thrift (Around the corner from Salvation Army – Sherwood Ave (the largest of the thrift stores with amazing things in it)
3.       Goodwill – there are various Goodwill shops (on Broad Str and Carytown)

Cultural Exploration

Now when it comes to the Fellowship itself, and what to do, I must say, attend as many of the
happenings in Richmond (RVA) as you can. Some of us attended the public talk on “Black Lives Matter” at VCU by Cornel West. It is these events that truly help you to understand the USA, and its people. This is a cultural experience as well, and opening yourself up to these experiences, gives you such a greater understanding of the USA people; something that may still be a cultural challenge at this point.


What deepened this experience for me, and for many of the fellows, was attending the MBTI workshop. So when it is your turn, throw yourself into it. Be vulnerable. Be open-minded and enjoy! This workshop was an opportunity to delve into ourselves and our dominant and backup personality styles. Mine I must say wasn’t too much of a shock, considering I had done the MBTI before, but to find I had shifted was interesting. We had many laughs during this workshop and it helped us to build greater cohesion and understanding between all of us. It was at this workshop that as a cohort, that we really got to get past the superficial venire that we all wear, and gain a better understanding of each other.


The deepening of understanding was built upon even further through social engagement with Dennis
Bussey and the James River Hikers, who held a welcome evening for the Humphrey Fellows. It was at this event that I met some wonderful people, who have been an ongoing support for me. I have done many things with them over this month: attending meditation sessions at the Maymont Park, or having lunch together or even getting the ball rolling in attending the Folk Festival in October together. I do know that others, such as Natasha, regularly socialize with people from this group and attend the most amazing hikes with them.
Not only is it an important part of the fellowship to start connecting with this group, but to start exploring your own personal interests and meeting your Friendship Family. This is a month of preparation and tracking down where you will do you Professional Affiliations, which is a very stressful experience. This stress, which is characterized by multitudes of meetings which you set up personally, but by Fellows expressing concern over where they are at, and being uncertain to the direction they going, and wondering if they will ever achieve their goals while on the fellowship. I know this was going through my mind. But it has been an amazing character building experience, as slowly the building blocks of my fellowship fell into place. Without my friendships among the fellows, and the support of the coordinators and my friendship family, this month of been “thrown in the deep end” to “sink or swim” would not have achieved the same positive outcomes as it is currently doing.

Cellphone App Utilization

With the weeks been so packed during this month with trying to get all the different components of your fellowship off the ground, don’t forget to have fun! Make plans to get together with other fellows and go exploring. Find the Walmart Supercenter’s (such as Forest Street) and have some fun shopping, or find cheap hair salons (where you only pay $16, rather than the $45 close to campus). This can be made much easier if you have downloaded the necessary Apps onto your phone, such as the GRTC ones to assist with the bus routes and times – but realize one important thing: on the weekend, Richmond’s public transport system leaves much to be desired. There are no buses that go out of the City of Richmond jurisdiction (this is tiny, and does not carry over into the counties that make up the most of RVA). Taking this into account in emergency cases or when you simply don’t have time, turn to Uber. A very reliable taxi service, but it is also important to download their App as well.

Community College Networking

Other opportunities that assist you in various ways, is getting to know the Reynolds Community
College Team. This all the fellows had the opportunity to do at the Reception they held for us. It was an amazing experience of getting to understand the Higher Education system within the USA, while making contacts with a team who strive to include the Fellows in a variety of their projects – so get involved! I must say I have enjoyed every event at the college that I have attended. I do know the team doing the joint Humphrey Fellowship and Reyonld’s College Project are really gaining so much from their experiences.

International Bike Race

For those interested in sports (and some of the fellows were), you would have LOVED September. RVA and VCU shut down, as the world descended, filling the streets during the last week of the month. The city was filled with a buzz and an atmosphere of expectation. Unfortunately, for myself, I only got to experience a little of this amazing event. As I had dashed off to attend the DUI Drug Court Conference that was hosted in Norfolk. Which I (with some of my other fellows) then followed this up with three days of attending training in Evidence Based Prevention Programs that were facilitated by Charlie McGloughlin from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (VFHY). I am not sorry I attended these, as I was able to make amazing contacts and had experiences I will take back with me to South Africa. Though I do know that Zoey (from Slovakia) will take back a very different memory of this time; a memory of the rider from Slovakia winning the International Bike Race!

Outside RVA Trips

If you go outside of RVA (And I recommend that you try make the opportunity to) for any conferences, training, etc. take the opportunity to explore your destination. Go to the local tour routes, museums etc. While in Norfolk, I had the opportunity to explore the various naval museums, but the highlight was taking a guided tour by Charlie through the Langley Air Force Base.


This is a month, where making use of inexpensive yet highly beneficial conferences are available. I
have already pointed out the VA DUI Drug Court Training Conference, but there is also the VAMARP Conference. So if you want to learn more about Medication Assisted Recovery Programs, this is a must attend.
So, in summing up, I hope this quick guide gives you some tips to make the most of your Humphrey Fellowship while you are here.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

VCU Humphrey Fellowship Blog, September 2015 - Lenka "Zoey" Juricekova

Recipe for Slovak Dumplings or What Is The most Tasty and Important Ingredients while you are on Humphrey Fellowship

“Bryndzové halušky“, or dumplings with “bryndza“ is a traditional meal from the Slovak Republic,  a small country in the middle of Europe where I come from. I have eaten this dish several times and never before imagined that the first time I learned how to cook them and prepare them without the help will be thousand miles away from home. Things that sometimes seem less likely to happen come true very often. So at the end of August 2015 I was standing in the kitchen of my apartment in Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond and for couple hours I was cooking Slovak dumplings for people from Bosnia and Herczegovina, Egypt, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Turkey, Uganda and Virginia - US. Hubert H. Humphrey Fellows for the year 2015 -2016 at VCU.  People from all over the world during their first Movie Night eated Slovak dish and watching a Slovak movie.

The basis of  dumplings with “bryndza“ are potato, and a little bit of salt and flour. Bryndza is special sheep milk cheese – white, tangy and crumbly. You cannot find it easy in the US, but when you really want it, anything is possible – even prepare your own bryndza too. But what I realized and learned by standing in the kitchen and experimenting with the dumplings was, that besides of bryndza and potatos, other ingredients are important to prepare and serve the most tasty dish during your fellowship program. Do you wonder what ingredients?  Please, here is the recipe.

You will need:

Couple grams - sometimes couple kilograms - of homesicknes, mixed with the ability to laugh at yourself and..“take it easy“

- This special ingredient entails in itself moments, when you want to pack all your suitcases and go back home, and moments when you want to smile and smile because you are delighted how many challenges and opportunities are in front of you.

- Why this particular mix? Everything, including the smell in the air, the taste of your morning coffee, or the sounds on the street seems different.  The first days of your new temporary life you probably find yourself looking for the keys from your car for almost 20 minutes while you realize, that your car is parked almost on the opposite hemisphere of the Earth.   In front of you is new daily routine and programs, completely different from that one back home.   So you will grab the navigation or the map and hurry up in to your new office, school, or work. You are holding the navigation in your hand so strongly as a child holds the hands of his or her parents. All around is a different language, even your own voice sounds different when you speak English and not in your native speech. Sometimes you have a feeling that it is not completely you when you miss some words and you cannot easily express everything you need. But most of the time you have to smile on yourself when you are trying to search for strange words, pronounce them, but your tongue does not obey you as you would like. And you really have to smile at yourself when your navigation says that your new office is 5 minutes away from your apartment, but you come there after nearly 20 minutes .. because you got lost. Do you tell or not tell this new personal record to your new colleagues?

Litres of readiness for change, willingness to observe, to listen and to be patient

- This ingredient is like a magic liquid, which need to be shaken all the time very carefully  to obtain its real and the best taste. Once you need to be more patient, another time you need to be able to take action for better understanding of others worlds.

- Why this mix? During the couple months you have been in the United States so far, you have met people almost from every continent, from different countries, with different cultures, with different religions, beliefs and values, professions and with different hobbies.  Not every meeting was the easiest one.  Sometimes you are afraid not to offend somebody unwittingly, sometimes you feel anxiety if your joke does not harm instead of having fun. What is absolutely normal is not necessarily normal for someone else, or it can be understood differently.  Every day you see new faces and hear new names and accents.  Every day is about the new adaptation.   And you start to be addicted to it, because it gives you a feeling that you can learn from anyone in the world something new, if you listen carefully.   From one moment you wish to live for eternity because you want to go and visit all that places and where all the people you meet come from.

Thousand megabites of memory with “eyes wide open“

- This “seasoning“ may form a memory in your own head, or takes the form of big diary, or as a memory stick for your computer.   Anything is good, and the most important thing is – it needs to be huge and with enough space.

- Why? Virginia State Capitol, Valentine Museum and Canal Cruise in Richmond, Virginia Beach, Haskell Indian Nation University in Lawrence, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Virginia Museum of Fine arts.. These are just couple places I visited during last four months.  Places full of art, culture, human stories and information.  But what is the most important is these all places are full of inspiration which says, ”It is up to you what type of fingertips you will leave behind you.”

Tonne of dreams, self – motivation and hard - work

- This ingredient has a strange taste  - bit of sweet and bit of salty, sometimes little bit sour .. it is made by Phantasy Co.

- Why you really need it? Everyone from Humphrey fellows came here with his or her own project and goals to achieve what they want to bring back in their country and work.  Days are suddenly very short and in your calendar is less and less space because is full of notes, addresses and names of people you want to speak with.  Every meeting with every professional is different.  You feel like a detective who is searching for clues. You need to smile and feel glad when you see so many people willing to share their own know-how and help. And when you listen the stories behind the successful project, it gives you a hope that everything is possible. Every meeting brings you closer to your professional dream. On the other hand, you need to keep your inner child with you every time, because it helps you ask questions and not to be comfortable with the status – quo. To grow up takes a lot of questions.

Non-countable amount of humbleness because now you know you are a very rich person

- This additive you should have enough anytime, anywhere and for anyone to share.

- Why? Because now you know, you are an extremely rich person and humility is able to grow only by its sharing.  You got the opportunity to learn, to visit new places and to meet new people.  Thanks to all of that you can know yourself better.  Now you are fully aware of all those things you have back at home and maybe you have never seen them so clearly before until you went away from them for a while. Now you know that you are very rich person because you have a family you may miss and who may miss you. You have your work you love.  You have opportunity to learn and make mistakes.  You have your own identity while having the opportunity to change in an environment of safety, support and with your own pace and control about your own life.  Not everyone in the world has the same opportunity.  There are people who flee from their countries, away from their culture and families, with one backpack on their shoulders, on their way to the “No man’s land,” usually with no idea if they ever will be able to come back home.  People whose lives are in threat and risk because of climate changes, health problems, because of political system they do not agree with, because of lack of opportunities for good and available education.  Their identity has to be changed drastically from one day to another, with no moratorium, usually only with the question on their mouths:”To be or not to be?” …a question easy to ask and write, but very hard to “do”.. What can you as a Humphrey Fellow do for them? How can your project make this world a better place to live?  How can it be a better place to feel homesickness, a better place for readiness to change, a better place to remember, a better place to dream about?
A better place to cook your own dumplings with your own ingredients.

Lenka “Zoey” Juricekova