Posts Tagged family

Slightly past Ayoba time…Travels to the 2010 South Africa World Cup – Part I

Well, okay…a little more than slightly past Ayoba time…but better late than never?

Check your calendar Dan, you’re about 5 months too late with this post. You gotta get your priorities straight and stop living in the past. (Am I allowed to use the cliche excuse that I’m on African time?). So maybe being on time isn’t my thing – but I think there are still some cool stories and philosophizing to share so even if this is maybe no longer categorized under current events, I hope you’ll make it past this paragraph.

For your reference back home – It’s Ayoba Time! was the advertising campaign being run by the World Cup telecom sponsor MTN and played incessantly everywhere in Africa during the lead up and main event itself. The Ayoba vuvuzela “tune” was a common sound heard whenever you were in a World Cup host city and  may have interrupted more than a few conversations along Durban’s Florida St. restaurants and cafe’s as we got everyone into the world cup spirit during a particular night of revelry.  And yes, the 2010 World Cup was exactly like that street party scene in the last shot of the ad.

Editor’s Note: Part I…what’s up with that?

As I have been told many times and have readily admitted on this blog before – I have a bit of a problem keeping things concise. This post has been in various progressive forms of draft mode since I returned to Canada on July 9th – and with each of my visits it grew and grew in size until became in danger of becoming  an unreadable-in-one-sitting-novel. As such, I have split the post into a two-part series (and they are both still bloody long!) – more dusty foot philosophizing to love for all of us!

“baby, I would follow you to the ends of the earth”

Where I left off on this blog  during the travels down to SA we were headed to the Zambia/Zimbabwe border to see the mighty Victoria Falls and I promised not to do anything too stupid. Well, the jury is still out on that one.

The first of my two “at the ends of the earth” moments I experienced on this stage of the trip was from the air. It was  the less-stupid decision we made to take a ultra-lite/micro-lite flight over the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls to get a birds-eye view. When you visit the falls from the ground level you truly understand why the indigenous people here called the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders” for all you non-Kololo speakers. I loved that name the moment I first read it. It’s (obviously?) neither of those things and yet it fits so perfectly. When approaching the falls from the ground you can see the mist rising up from miles away and a hear a dull roar where the river suddenly drops off. When you get up close on the trail that goes beneath the falls – you are completely soaked,  can only see a blanket of mist in front of you,  and can hardly hear each other over the roar of the water.

The ultra-lite flight is the perfect counterbalance to intensity of the ‘smoke and thunder’. You soar up into the air with no walls keeping you in and your bare feet hanging off the edge and blowing in the wind. It’s a glorified go-kart with wings and until the jet-pack becomes commercially available (The Jetsons promised me such technology by now…) – I think it might be the closest thing to human flight available. It was eerily quiet and peaceful up there and you see a side of this spectacle of nature that you thought was the sole domain of those BBC Planet Earth film crews or National Geographic photographers that us mere mortals weren’t allowed to witness.

I don’t know if this will make sense to you but I will try. There are moments in life when you are just purely happy. When you have a big goofy smile on your face that starts to hurt your cheeks but you can’t reign it in. When you say to yourself, “damn…Louis Armstrong was right”. Where, if real-life had a soundtrack, there would be an epic classical masterpiece hitting its crescendo during this scene. When you know that what you need to do in life is chase these moments, that feeling… maybe it is a person for you or a place or an experience…but you need to find it wherever it is on this planet…. and that the bad parts of life or stress of work  and earning a paycheque is purely there to enable this. Yeah, it was kinda cool like that.

The less intelligent “at the edge of the world” moment was a bit more straightforward. Put one foot in front of the other and walk off a cliff.

According to the stats I just looked up on their website – the gorge-swing jump was a “160 ft pure Free Fall…….Reaching speeds of up to 180 Km/h.” and was supposed to last 4 seconds or something (yes, that is enough time to both fully comprehend that it was a stupid decision and subsequently urinate your pants) before the rope catches just above the ground below and whips you into a high-speed swing across the tree tops. I would like to say that if I had thought more about those numbers at the time I wouldn’t have done it – but that’s probably not true. Ah well, you learn your lessons (and your whiplashed neck and lower back pay the price) – I have absolutely zero desire to ever do any “extreme” jumping again. Well, I should probably be completely honest with you – we climbed back up to the top and proceeded to try the  aptly named tandem-death-drop where you tie yourself at the ankles and waist to a buddy and flip backwards off the ledge. But going forward…I have absolutely zero desire to ever do any “extreme” jumping again.

“It’s the people that make the place”

Okay, so maybe this is obvious as well -but isn’t it kind of funny how a place, a neighbourhood, a city, a country even – can be defined in your memory not necessarily by its actual tourist attractions or natural beauty but purely by the people that you meet there?

Two such experiences from our trip stand out which made me want to include this observation here. The second was in Durban, SA. Two strangers in a city meet some people out while watching a game. Instead of the easier/safer/conventional goodbye we are invited into their lives for our 3 days in Durban. Keys to the apartment, cooking dinners, visiting workplaces, going to house parties, exchanging good books & music, and lots of jokes makes Durban stand above its more famous Cape Town and Johannesburg counterparts in my books.

The first was in Bulowayo, Zimbabwe where six dirty, smelly, pretty much random travelers were taken in and made a part of a family for our brief  stay. Cooking barbeque feasts, giving relationship advice, white-bread eating contests, joining  family monopoly night, and sitting around the living room hearing personal stories of how one family dealt with Zim’s unbelievable inflation crisis of 2008 and why they choose to stay when the easy path to just leave is available. That’s what I will always remember about Zimbabwe.

I guess the moral of the story is  - be kind to strangers, be especially welcoming to guests, and just know the effect you can have when someone else passes temporarily through your world.

“This is Africa’s World Cup”

The hype starting building even before we arrived in Tanzania a full 11 months before the opening kick-off. What started then as an email sent out to my fairly unknown two future roommates in Dar while preparing for last years trip (and I copy and paste) – “Hey guys. I’m looking at possibly staying until the beginning of June and then hopefully heading to South Africa to take part in some World Cup festivities before heading home” – turned into those 3 guys booking their return flights out of South Africa with no plans of how to get there – turned into some purchased game tickets – evolved into some rough plans involving trains, boats, buses, and cars – and finally turned into a reality. kinda cool.

In the months leading up to the tournament I talked with a lot of people about it and that buzz just kept on building. Everyone was excited that Africa had an opportunity to be on the world stage and play host to the world’s game. It didn’t matter that SA was the official host – this was Africa’s World Cup and I was told that many times over. I particularly remember meeting a man in Mbeya, Tanzania who, when I told him we were going,  told me he was religiously buying bottles of Coke to look under the cap and try to win the grand prize trip and tickets to the final. He laughed and said he knew he wouldn’t win but how could he not try? This was once in a lifetime and this was Africa’s World Cup.

As we got closer to the World Cup (both geographically and chronologically) it was like there was a giant funnel on the continent – draining everyone you met down to SA for the opening. Of course, its sad that most of these people we met heading to the event were foreigners as well – and only the most privileged percentage of Africans on this continent were able to come experience their very own continent’s World Cup in person. But I think you could probably argue the same about Canada hosting the Olympics or other major events like this held anywhere – and in the end the immense continental pride and ownership was still there at all levels.

“Welcome home, we’ve been waiting 200,000 years”

Finally, I’ll leave you with a video of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s speech from the launch concert the night before the opening game. He welcomes the world to not only South Africa – but all of Africa which I thought was a very nice touch given the proud ownership of the event that we saw throughout the continent on our travels.  ”Africa is the cradle of humanity”  and so if we go far enough back…we are all African. True that, Archbishop, true that.

Welcome home world. Now doesn’t that just bring a tear to your eye?

Stay tuned for Part II of this post dealing with some of the actual World Cup fun ….coming soon (or at least sometime in the next 5 months…)

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How BIG is your Africa?

Alright, so I realized writing the posts for this blog in the past 4 months that I have a serious problem…with keeping thing concise. (what? you thought I was going to say Konyagi?)

The fact that my next and still unpublished post is still sitting in the Draft mode after about two months is a testament to that fact. As such, in an effort to make more more regular and brief posts – here is a shiny NEW post under 453 words!

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How BIG is your Africa?

I was lucky enough to have my parents and sister come to Tanzania to visit me in the month of January (and they were lucky to have a son/brother who ended up working near the beautiful beaches and tropical weather of Tanzania to escape the Canadian winter). We toured a good portion of the countries world-famous sights that roll off the tongue…Zanzibar, Serengeti Plains, Ngorogoro Crater, Kilimanjaro (from a distance) and had a great time.

Near the end of the trip, my sister (sorry if I make you look dumb, but that’s what big brothers do best) made a comment to the effect that Tanzania wasn’t really that big, it was probably comparable to Southern Ontario.. as it took only a few hours to fly between our destinations.

Eager to prove her wrong, I hit up my trusty Wikipedia for the facts and will report them here for all to see;

Southern Ontario: 139,931 km2

Ontario:     1,076,395 km2

Tanzania: 945,203 km2


Turns out, Tanzania is pretty close to the size of the whole province of Ontario and it’s endless expanses of lakes, woods and granite up north.

Part of the problem is that many of us in the West grew up using Mercator and other seriously flawed map projections that distort the North and South poles to make them fit nicely into aesthetically pleasing globe form. It shrunk Africa and other continents/countries along the equator to fit the projection and our minds have always just made the automatic connection since.

I’ve seen this trick done now a few times so I though I would share. It’s  where the African continent’s true size is put in perspective by putting all other countries inside it  (not literally, I don’t think China would agree to that. Just through new-age techno-graphic wizardry).

Check it out!

It's a party inside the African continent and your invited

Interesting stuff. This place is huge! I just calculated it and at the end of May I have a 2,500 km journey (“as the crow flies”) from Dar es Salaam down to Johannesburg for the opening of the FIFA World Cup. I guess I had best find some good walking shoes.

Well, I hope you enjoyed your geography lesson today kids. And remember, being blonde just doesn’t pay, respectability is just a hair-dye box away :)

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