The Year of the South African World Cup

This year has been one of fantastic adventures and difficult challenges. Alisa and I began the year in Washington DC having started entry level jobs at the most innovative technology company on the planet, but with no real plan for the future other than to save up and return to Africa, where hopefully we would find employment. When the email came from FIFA on the 5th of February notifiying me that I had won tickets to all the matches I had submitted for during the random drawing, it gave me what I thought would be new purpose to life. I finally had confirmed tickets to return to the country I had fallen in love with only 3 years earlier. It would finally give me a reason to book my plane tickets and set off, hoping that Alisa would tag along for the World Cup part even though she sought to find a ‘real’ job in Washington DC. The year took on new meaning when just seven days later, I received another email accepting me into the African Studies Program at the University of Califorinia – Los Angeles.

I had lost hope of getting into graduate school when I saw my GRE scores flash on the screen the previous December. I thought I had blown my money on apps and the test as well as the chance to improve my chances for ‘real’ employment in the near future. So when UCLA sent the confirmation email of my acceptance, I was relived and surprised that I had got in. That surprise grew when just a few weeks later I learned that the Masters of Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California had also extended it’s acceptance letter to me. Suddenly I had a reason to return to the United States after the World Cup, and I set out to convince Alisa to embark on this journey of a lifetime. Continue reading

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Museum Time in Cape Town

23 July

Woke this morning after a great 10 hour sleep, perhaps our record on this trip and slowly got ready for another day in Cape Town. I had made a long list of random things to do, that would be more secondary to-do items in Cape Town, but as I had seen most of the A-List things in Cape Town, this was next up. With Alisa not getting a hot shower, and her cold still unrelenting, she was not in the best of moods, so I was hesitant to track her from museum to museum today, but we set off nonetheless with the goal to end at the Two Oceans Aquarium where we could see Alisa’s squid (the one that was making predictions at the World Cup).

We paused at the Spar one block away for donuts and flavored sparkling water and headed off down Long St before cutting over to the South African Parliament. I had walked this way in 2007 and hadn’t seen an entrance and since Alisa had not walked the Company Gardens we leisurely walked around the grounds to the other side where we finally found the Entrance to the Visitors center only to be told we had just missed the last tour. I didn’t realize that there wouldn’t be any tomorrow (Saturday), and so was a bit bummed I had missed a chance to tour the place. We set off to go next door to the Iziko Museum at the Slave Lodge. It was an interesting place, very well done, telling the story of Slaves in South Africa and how they arrived at the Cape. It had a few interesting facts that I hadn’t come across before, such as slaves born in the Cape often had van de Kap affixed as their surname, but only had exhibits that took up half of the space in the oldest remaining building in Cape Town (was the original structure used to house Dutch East India Company Slaves at the Cape, then ironically the Supreme Court). Also interesting were the two Tomb stones expatriated from Java bearing the names of Jan van Riebeek and his wife. Van Riebeek is considered the founder of Cape Town, and also one of the few early originators of apartheid, having planted an almond and thorn bush to demarcate the European claimed area and keep out the native population in 1652. It is always interesting to see how South Africa museums combine very different and often contradictory items from its past under one roof. It could be symbolic of the unity the country is trying to forged, but it is often the remnants of the telling of history of the country pre-1994 (the massive tombstones were part of a paster wall in the court yard, as this was once the South Africa Cultural Museum). The second half of the museum was dedicated to Nelson Mandela. Walked clockwise around the building actually starts you off at the end of the exhibit, and as I learned a good deal in the middle part (it went chronologically) much of the info was just a repeat as I went through. However, it was quite a comprehensive history of Mandela and the struggle, one that someone not as fluent in the history could gain a great deal from. I was quite surprised at the end a full poster of Mandela’s faults and missteps, two hitting on his biggest (Lack of HIV/AIDS policy, and the transition from RDP to GEAR).

After leaving we headed downtown towards the train station, and though we went through a roundabout way of getting there, we eventually found the Shosoloza Meyl ticket office at the North end, and picked up our tickets for Sunday. The station had definitely undergone a make over for the World Cup, but I would have been very interested to know how many visitors used it for local or national trips.

Even though I was starving, Alisa was still suffering and not hungry so we made our way over to the exhibit put on by the District 6 Museum on the development of Cape football. The Sacks Futeran building was the host of Fields of Play exhibition displaying info and artifacts from local football clubs from the turn of the century all the way up to the present. While they made brief references to apartheid and how it affected membership of a club or how football was made into a way to protest apartheid’s laws in the 1980s, there was very little correlation drawn except for these bits. I think that had to do with the fact that while apartheid/segregation determined the make up of the clubs and the pitches they could use, sport was for the most part used as a distraction, as it is in many cultures from the tribulations of society. I was surprised by the amount of soccer history possessed by the Cape, and think that it bodes well if the Premier Soccer League (Division 1 in South Africa) and Bafana Bafana can expand its fan base from its near African-exclusive supports. One of the nationals newspapers had the Local Organizing Committee (of the FIFA World Cup) discussing pairing with the rugby and cricket institutions to make use of the stadiums, but they also floated the prospect of rugby-soccer double headers at the WC stadiums. A Pirates – Sundowns and Lions – Bulls (Joburg and Pretoria team match ups, respectfully) could be hosted by the 98,000 seater Soccer City in the future. This I think would be fantastic for continuing and fostering cross over between cultures and races, plus provide a fantastic sporting atmosphere, building off regional rivalries (Why didn’t MLS try this in its infancy? – DC United vs NY MetroStars before a Redskins – NY Giants game).

Upstairs was Offside and collaboration between District 6, the British Council, Kick it Out, and Football Unites, Racism Divides (FURD) organizations. It detailed the best footballers that South Africa had produced in its history and how Apartheid affected their careers as they followed their dreams overseas. A bunch of great information on a two whole teams of South Africans, many that I knew from their football exploits, but didn’t know their ancestry (this owing to the fact that white South Africans got around the visa requirements with their British heritage, often becoming capped for one of the Home Nations as a result). Who knew ____ was born in Durban, but held a Rhodesian/Zimbabwean passport?

Alisa was still not feeling well and being already 1600, we decided to skip the squid and head back to Long Street to solve my rumbling stomach. We were on the way back to Simply Asia, but Alisa decided to stop early at Tong Lok, a Chinese place that Morgan Bubel and I had frequented during our stay in Cape Town. I couldn’t remember if it was good, but I thought we had been their twice, and thought it was a good enough shot. Alisa’s Sweet and Sour Chicken was fairly bland, and the chicken fried rice wasn’t terribly good either. My sizzling beef had a good kick to it, but was nothing special. We can probably cross it off our list on trips to Cape Town in the Future.

We’re headed to the internet cafe we used in 2007, but learned they had no port for laptops, only offering limited date for wifi through Skyrove. Dismayed, I search the web and came across Mainonline, saying they didn’t charge extra for downloads. I walked up the street only to be told they don’t allow any downloads OR uploads, because it ‘slows the network’. So much for First World.

Alisa is off to get her massage/spa day. They didn’t get back to her about her request for a time, but let’s hope she gets one because it would be good for her to be semi-refreshed before she goes off to Kenya for three months.

Last Minute Packing for Zimbabwe

July 6

Today we hung out at the house and started packing. It took us awhile to really get started because we had to do laundry and separate everything that was going with us for two weeks from what we would leave at Elna’s. In addition, we packed my nice REI rolling duffle with all our souvenirs that Alex will take back to the states with him.

Alex spent a good portion of the day registering for classes and organizing our transportation to Cape Town. We have decided to bus from Joburg to Kimberely and Kimberely to Cape Town and then we will take the Shoshaloza train back to Joburg from Cape Town. I booked us at Cape Town Backpackers for our 4 nights in Cape Town, which I believe is where my mother and I stayed in 2007. So off from Joburg on the 19th at 10am, arrive in Kimberley in the afternoon, have dinner, then see the sights all on the 20th, and catch another bus that night taking us onwards to Cape Town. We’ll depart Cape Town on the 25th, taking a 24 hr train trip back to Joburg so we can have one more day in Gauteng before we fly onwards.

At 8 pm we order Italian take-away from across the street and went to Garth’s friends house to watch the semi-final match between Uruguay and the Netherlands. I think Alex enjoyed it because David, Garth’s friend, knew enough about soccer to have a conversation about players and teams with him, which Alex doesn’t get when he watches the games with me.

Last minute packing tomorrow and then were off to Zimbabwe.

The Visitors Play Soccer & Drive a Manual

July 3

Garth, Elna’s son, was returning home from his month long trip to the US this morning, so I rose early to move our food, suitcases, backpacks, and souvenirs out of Garth’s apartment and back into Elna’s main house. Alex, who would have preferred to sleep several more hours, assisted with the last few bags and the final check to insure we had gathered all of our things.

Once we moved into our new room and laundry was in the washing machine Alex and I “played” soccer in the yard with Mandla. The goal was comprised of two rubbish bins and I was the goalie, but Mandla didn’t like that so he decided that kicking the ball anywhere on the wall, that stretched the length of the yard, was a goal. Alex tried to teach Mandla some fundamentals of soccer

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