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.