Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Wednesday....

Due to a few technical difficulties we have been having some trouble uploading the videos. We are hoping that Steve Peed, F&M's director of athletic communications, can come through in the clutch and help us out with that. Below is a blog written by Fish (Brian Fisher) about our day Wednesday, which was one of the most emotional days we have had on the trip thus far. Fish is great with words so be sure to read what he has to say below to get a feel for what we are experiencing. Above are some pictures that were taken on Wednesday. Thanks for looking, and be sure to keep sending us comments!!!
-McCall


Mohllo and Saubona,

These words mean hello in Xhosa and Zulu respectively. These are a couple of the words from these African dialects which I have learned and have been saying repeatedly over the last few days at our soccer camps in Khayelitsha. This is Brian again, giving Josh a break from blogging for the evening. I’d like to talk about everything that happened today, but first I would like to offer a little bit of my perspective on Cape Town and Khayelitsha.

Cape Town, South Africa is definitely unlike any place I have ever been too. I was talking to Dan Shuptar at dinner last night, and we both kind of agreed that our most pervasive observation about the area is the contrasts. Josh has written a lot about the great beauty of the area; particularly the beaches and the mountains. He also has mentioned the dilapidation and despair of Khayelitsha. This one of the contrasts I am referring to. Another is the obvious racial and economic contrasts. Townships, like Khayelitsha, which is the second largest in South Africa, date back to Apartheid times. Apartheid has been over for about fifteen years or so, but after generations upon generations of racial indoctrination, there exists some pretty strong obstacles and forces of inertia which prevent racial equality and integration. Thus, for the most part, especially residentially, the races are divided. At the bottom rung you have the blacks, of which the townships consist exclusively. Slightly above the blacks in socioeconomic standing are the coloreds, which have some African ancestry, who still live mostly in their own neighborhoods which, in general, are slightly nicer than the townships. Finally, you have the whites, who are at the top of the pyramid. The downtown area of Cape Town has all the appearances of a thriving commercial city, while not more than a few miles away lie the outskirts of the townships. It is almost surreal to be driving in our bus and to pass Mazzeradi, Ferrari, and Porsche car dealerships only a few minutes before we arrive in overcrowded townships where the nicest areas resemble American ghettos, and the worst areas are significantly worse. During the day, the downtown area is full of activity, but once the sun sets, the streets of Cape Town are barren from fear of crime. On a slightly lighter note, one thing I have noticed is that everyone drives on the wrong side of the road here. I told our bus driver this, but he continues to cruise along on the left side of the road.

One thing I was worried about with this whole trip was that we would come off as somewhat pretentious in our efforts. I was concerned that we could possibly be construed by the township residents as a bunch of wealthy white kids coming to their neighborhood to fix some of their problems because they could not and we knew better than them. This has not been the case whatsoever. As Josh said, the people from Khayelitsha have received us better than I could have ever expected. Every time our tour bus drives by people in the township, they wave enthusiastically and give us the thumbs-up. When we exit the bus, we are always greeted by a swarm of children offering us hugs and high fives. They make us feel like celebrities, and I can only hope that we can bring them half of the joy that working with them gives us. We learned a new handshake from these kids that has an interesting twist and that I am sure you will see us doing when we return to campus. In return, we showed them how to pound fists and explode, which they really seem to enjoy. In general, despite the great poverty and hardships they face, the kids seem to be very happy. They love to play around with us, and to sing and dance. Most importantly, they love soccer, and as we drive away from the townships after our camps we see people of all ages playing in the dwindling daylight on any plot of free land they can find. The kids don’t complain about anything, and I am amazed how well behaved and attentive they are.

On to today, which was another marathon day for us. Danny Levi called this trip an “un-vacation,” and that is pretty much the case. We had to be on the bus at 8 so we could make it in time for a tour of Robben Island. Robben Island held a prison where those considered to be “threats” by the Apartheid regime were imprisoned from the 1950s through 1990. We learned that we would be on the ferry that was taking us to the island’s maiden voyage, and I was relieved to learn its translated name meant “Freedom for us” and not “Titanic.” On the ferry ride to the island, eight of us sat together and every one of us fell asleep, just to give you an idea of how tired we are from our hectic schedule. This did not stop Mr. Keil from waking some of us up to point out to his son, Jason, a scenic mountain and some clouds. Surprisingly, we didn’t appreciate it as much as he did. Once we got to Robben Island, we received a bus tour around the island, and a tour of the prison itself; both of which were given by former inmates of the prison. Our bus tour was especially good. Not only did the guide successfully shut Ryan McGonigle up, which is no easy task, but he also had a lot of great information to offer. He told us that during the Apartheid period, the government actually passed a law that stated that anyone could be arrested and imprisoned at any time without a trial. We also got to see the lime mine where prisoners worked. At this mine, prisoners taught other prisoners how to read and write, as it was the only time when they were allowed to talk to each other. The prisoners took up the motto “Each one teach one,” and as a result many of the prisoners of Robben Island have gone on to achieve great things, including holding seats on South Africa’s current parliament. This message resonated with me especially in light of our work helping to spread HIV prevention information to the kids in Khayelitsha. We also got to see Nelson Mandela’s former prison cell.

We then were shuttled to the Ikuzi School for our last soccer camp with the kids from Khayelitsha. Once again we received a warm welcome from the locals. We got to help the Grassroots Soccer trainers with the “life skills” portion of the camp, which are games focused on spreading HIV prevention information. That was a lot of fun. We then ran the soccer portion of the camp. At the end of the camp, everyone circled up and sang as trainers, F&M students, and Ikuzi students were pulled into the middle to do dances which everyone on the outside would mimic. Our coach was pulled into the center, and he decided to do the “YMCA” dance. He was quickly removed from the center of the circle, and we all agreed to never speak of this again. Haha, just kidding, we hope to get the video of this on the blog so you can all see the bewildered and embarrassed expressions of the Ikuzi and F&M students alike. However, Coach redeemed himself during a ceremony held after the camp, in which Coach, with the help of Raja (a Grassroots Soccer trainer) explained that we would be donating lots of soccer equipment to, and building a brand new soccer field for, the school and the community. I cannot explain to you how big of a deal this is. The current field upon which we will be building this new field is just a bumpy, sandy plot of land. Every now and then, I would see a small child jump up and down in pain as their bare feet stepped on a large rock or a piece of glass. The kids were very excited to hear about the new field, and they thanked us, sang to us, and followed us to our bus (despite the trainers’ best efforts to restrain them) to say goodbye for the last time. Working with these kids and the Grassroots trainers, who are residents of Khayelitsha themselves, has been so much fun, and the most rewarding thing I have ever done. I think I speak for everyone else on the team when I say it was extremely hard to say goodbye to these amazing children for the last time.

After the camp, we played a soccer team based out of Khayelitsha called Ikaapa. This team included one former South African national team captain who Adrian told us is basically a legend in South Africa. For the first time since we arrived here, we actually played well. Unfortunately, the winds of fortunate were not with us, and we lost on an unlucky own goal, though we had the better of play. The atmosphere was fantastic as many members of the Khayelitsha community came out to watch us play and to cheer us on. One particularly enthusiastic fan ran up and down our sidelines with a horn starting cheers for us and yelling at the ref that he was “stealing his joy” whenever he made calls in favor of Ikaapa. After the match, we signed some quick autographs for some kids (yeah, seriously), left Khayelitsha for a restaurant to enjoy a delicious feast of different traditional African foods. Now, I am off to bed as we have to be on the buses at 6 am tomorrow morning to catch a flight to Johannesburg.

-Brian

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very touching pictures, videos and especially reflections of the days.
From all the comments it seems everyone here at home is feeling the same way. We are seeing through your eyes and learning about South Africa in a very special way. Thank you for this, be safe and we are looking forward to your return.
Steve and Linda Zamek

March 19, 2008 at 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow...thank you so very much for sharing your information. I appreciate, even though you are tired, that you download the pictures and write down the days events.
The children are so adorable. Their laughter is contagious. Thanks for all that you are doing. Sleep tight and enjoy the last couple of days.
Hugs and smiles, jann corday

March 19, 2008 at 11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post Fish. Great humor too... The G comment was hysterical. Once again, glad you're all having fun, and thanks for keeping everyone updated!
-amy amato

March 19, 2008 at 11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OSB,

My apologies in advance to Coach who may view the following as a means of disrupting the group’s schedule, but to all of the F&M players, PLEASE take advantage of the impromptu opportunities to embrace the people of South Africa…I’m craving more blogs of games in the street created from a tip to the security guard. Reiterating what another response stated, you will have plenty of time to sleep on the flight home, enjoy every second you have there.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

PS – a shot of Jagermeister is required...of course, only for those of you that are of age in South Africa.

Austin

March 20, 2008 at 10:02 AM  
Blogger Lenore Fisher said...

Love the pictures of the children with the players. You should all be so proud of the joy you have brought to these children who have so little. We know you are working on these blogs at the end of a long, exhausting day. We greatly appreciate your hard work as we have learned so much about S.Africa from your descriptions and photos. Have a great time in Johannesburg. The Fisher Family p.s. Hi Brian!

March 20, 2008 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Elle said...

To Brian...
I loved reading your post because it showed that you are really thinking about some of the issues which are present in South Africa today. I was especially interested in your worries about seeming pretentious. While reading the blog, I was having some of the same thoughts, and I think that you addressed them very well. It is so great that you are experiencing some of the harsh realities present in South Africa today. While it is so easy to read about it in the newspaper, I think that it takes travel experiences to really make these conditions real. I would love to hear more about your thoughts on the poverty and conditions that you see. I mean, you are witnessing something which is part of a larger global problem and I would be very interested in your or the other players reactions to this.

Keep up the great work. This is truly amazing.

Love, Ellen

March 20, 2008 at 2:58 PM  

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