The World Cup and Southern Africa

During the world cup I will be traveling around South Africa. After the tournament is over, I plan to travel over ground about 1800 miles up to Nairobi, where I will fly back to the states from in early August.

In this blog I hope to share my experiences, thoughts, and stories. I am not completely sure why I am here, I hope to know by the time I leave. I will focus on a few topics:
1) How do we develop people? (Education, Values, etc..)
2) Is there any absolute truth? I hope so.
3) Football

This will not be clean and edited, it is my journal. I will write very much in stream of consciousness, most statements I make are questions that I wish answered. Please feel free to add to my inner-dialogue.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Monday July 5, 2010

My first night in this hostel was probably my best sleep of the trip. Last night was the opposite. Between a big moth flying around the room, a few people walking in and out of the room, and a some strong snoring, I didn’t sleep that well. I got up at 8 with the rest of my room and started scheming on laundry. I had stretched my clothes much further than is advisable, many items were worn more than once. One of the hostel folks had told me I could wash my clothes here. He was gone this morning, and the person that was here explained that they were backed up with their own stuff. The wasserkry (the Afrikaans word I was to look for) was just around the corner. I walked up the road that I understood it to be on, no love, then I thought maybe she meant a left on the main street, the were some words in Afrikaans, but none seemed close enough to what I heard her say. I then walked the other direction on the main street, stopped at the grocery store and grabbed a couple things. After about an hour of wandering I returned to the hostel and asked again, turns out it was two lefts, and it was in fact just around the corner. It seems there are not many laudromats, you just give your clothes to someone and they wash dry and fold them. It cost r100, I guess that’s fair.

I returned to the hostel, read for a bit, then set out on a bike ride. The front wheel was pretty bent and the rest of the bike needed some maintenance. I hoped it would hold me down for the day. It lasted just over a km before I got a flat tire. That got me almost to my destination, I wanted to go to the place where the bus from the fan park had dropped everyone off the other night, partly I hoped I would see my seat mate. I didn’t. Apartheid struck me a bit more on this bike ride turned walk, especially how much progress needs to be made still. This whole area is a vacaction area for those who want the peaceful beach scene. There is nothing exciting, just long stretches of almost empty beaches. Most houses are large and everything is well kept. Then, behind a wall, is the non-white community. I say non-white because there were a number of people classifications under apartheid, some have different meanings in the US, so it’s easiest to use non-white and white to describe the two groups on either side of SA history. Anyway, I had seen communities like this already, but this one seemed to really demonstrate how separate things still are. I am still amazed at the attitude of South Africans of all backgrounds, but it seems that most non-whites still live in the areas outside of towns where they would have lived during Apartheid. I don’t know how living areas might become integrated, but that is important. I think it is an important part of our progress in the US as well. My observation is that different groups of people co-exist in US, not live together. South Africa has a very long way back until people are living together. To add to normal barriers, the government has put tons of money into building homes in the townships. The townships have developed their own businesses, transportation, even malls. The townships are not going anywhere. White people are not going to move to the townships with a few exceptions of course, some non-whites may leave the townships, but most will stay where they already have their home. Maybe I need to start talking about this with some South Africans.

I walked all the way through this rural township?(not sure what to call it), getting puzzled looks, I guess I didn’t fit in. I walked to the beach area in the back of the town and was struck again, for completely different reasons. The beach was massive and empty, and that’s the way it was for as far as I could see. There was maybe 50 meters of beach from where I popped out of the dunes to the ocean. The beach at Ocean City MD was also quite wide, I spose most beaches are, but I guess it feels different when it’s empty. I spent well over an hour with the ocean, trying to get my orange peels to go out to sea, watching the tide, talking with it a bit. I figured this was a great opportunity to check swimming naked in the ocean off my list, but in the end it was too cold, so I kept my clothes on and stayed out of the water. I also had sharks in the back of my mind, I haven’t heard anything about shark attacks, but shark diving is a popular tourist activity around here, so they can’t be too far. In general, I am scared of the ocean, I’ve spent very little time with it and my ignorance breeds fear.

I eventually continued back towards my hostel, pushing my bike through the sand, entertaining myself with the tire tracks. One thing I have failed to mention is the shells. The seashells are beautiful, I have never been interested in collecting shells until being here, I had gathered about 15 in my walks and placed them on a shelf next to my bed. I collected a couple more on this walk as I was wondering if there is any way I could get them home safely. When I got back to my room they were gone, they must have been cleaned during the morning cleaning. I relaxed for awhile, then went on a walk and got a sandwich. I pulled some change out of my pocket to count it as I was walking, I passed a man who looked in pretty bad shape, he spoke to me in Afrikaans, I think asking me for the change. He spoke no English, he was the first such person I’ve met. People mostly speak Afrikaans around here, I have to apologize and ask people to speak English with me. I tried to get the man to come with me to the grocery store so I could buy him food, we struggled in our communication, he said petrol pump in English, I think that’s where he worked, but at the same time, he didn’t look like he worked. He started walking in that direction, I tried to tell him that I would bring him food there, he then realized that I was walking towards the grocery store, and he came with me. He tried to wait outside, I waived him in. We walked in and I handed him a basket, he thought I was having him carry my groceries. He kept calling me meneer, which I think is like sir in Afrikaans. I know I have seen the word in the Alan Paton books I’ve read. Eventually he realized that I wanted him to put things in the basket. He put in bread, then looked at me for my approval, I gave him a thumbs up, then he understood, I could understand that he was asking if I was getting anything, after he asked the question a few times, and I answered no a few times, he was confident that we were on the same page. He grabbed some pork chops and put them in, looked for approval, and again I gave the thumbs up. He led me towards the register, on the way he asked me for cigarettes, I refused, he hoped I didn’t understand and looked into my eyes for a minute, I gestured only food, and we checked out. We were obviously out of place as a pair, and the girls behind the register spoke with him in Afrikaans and laughed about something. When I went back this evening to get some bread for myself, the girls asked me for my number, I wanted to sit and talk with them and learn about their town and their lives, but it didn’t seem the right fit. I shook hands with the man as we parted outside of the store, his hand was completely limp like he had never done it before. There is no real point to this story like many of the things I write about. I wasn’t impacted in any way, I just want to remember the man, so now I’ve recorded him.

A friend of the hostel offered to take me to watch the sunset at southern point tonight when I met her yesterday. She folded on me, she said it was cloudy and wasn’t worth the effort when I called her. I was disappointed, I was looking forward to an event after having a day of nothing. I really enjoyed my day, no complaints, but going back to the point would have been nice. So I had one last walk to the nearby beach, I saw something in the ocean, two flippers sticking in the air, moving occasionally, my guess is a turtle, or a very confused bird, it also could have been garbage. I thought of going out to eat, but it would’ve been out of boredom, I have bread in my bag, so I just returned to the hostel, now I will get online and post, I havn’t been online for a few days. My peace and quiet has been nice, now it’s time for the climax of my South African journeys, Cape Town and the final week of the world cup.


  1. I like the story of the man in the grocery store. You found a way to show kindness with limited communication. Maybe true kindness is shown more in our actions than our words. It is a sort of universal language.

  2. What you did for that man is profound for many reasons. A lot of people probably wouldn't have bothered.

    SA definitely has a long way to go regarding relations b/n whites and non-whites. Think about it: Jim Crow was offficially put to an end in 1965, almost 50 years ago. And I say officially b/c it was still "unofficially" practiced in certain areas of the US up until the late 70s early 80s. Despite the progress that has been made, there's still so much work to be done. SA is still in the early stages of post-Apartheidinism. Changes don't happen overnight, and changes such as the ones needed in SA will take time to even begin to make a mark.