Friday, July 16, 2010

From Cape to Kruger and next Cameroon

I began my journey in South Africa over a month ago in Cape Town. I came for the soccer, but I discovered a beautiful and mystifying land full of paradox and people who were more than happy to show their slice of the world to me.

From Cape Town I headed east to Pretoria to stay at the Kloof B&B run by Ericka Lottering and her husband Frans. The Lottering's are passionate and angelically friendly people, and their B&B became my sanctuary as I headed to various football matches in Durban and Joburg. I actually met Ericka, Frans, and their daughter, Sigi, nearly five years ago when I was in a nearby hospital after my accident. My dad had flown out to see me at the hospital and he'd stayed at the B&B. Ericka and Sigi came to visit me everyday for the month that I was laid up to keep me company and make sure I had clean clothes. They are, without a doubt, truly amazing people who will do anything for someone in need.

While staying in Pretoria, I visited the sights which included the Voortrekker Memorial - a memorial to the Dutch immigrants (Boers) who trekked across South Africa to avoid British rule, the Union Building - where Nelson Mandela ran the country, and Paul Kruger's modest home - the first President of South Africa and the namesake for the famous Kruger National Park. Next, I took a tour of Soweto, a large complex of various townships just outside of Johannesburg. Soweto is where many Blacks were forced to relocate under apartheid. Here I saw the block where both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived, though not at the same time. I also visited the Apartheid Museum, which offers a moving portrayal of a recent and tragic period of South African history.

The next leg of my journey took me to see the wildlife that is so prevalent in this part of the world. First, I headed to Pilansberg Park where I spent two days in a safari tent, and was fortunate to see many animals including giraffes, hippos, elephants, and several types of antelope. Before my trip to Pilansberg I was invited to Barberton and Kruger National Park by a guest of the B&B, Thea, and her family, which I happily excepted. So after returning from Pilansberg to the B&B I was whisked away by intercity van three hours east of Pretoria near the Swaziland border. Once again, I enjoyed the South African hospitality as Thea and her family took me in as their own. I visited Kruger National Park with Thea and her eldest daughter where we were delighted to see rhinos next to the road and a lioness who'd fallen asleep on the road.
My time in South Africa has come to a close and I have truly enjoyed my time. I have learned a great deal about this country, and I am left with more questions than answers concerning the race relations that trouble SA. There is still so much to be done - perspectives must change, segregation must decrease substantially, and wealth must be generated for everyone. My hope is that the World Cup will help this process continue in a positive direction. I would not hesitate to come back to this land of endless beauty to see how it grows and matures.

The final leg of my journey takes me to Cameroon. For those who are unaware, I was involved in an accident nearly five years ago, which was the reason for my hospitalization in Pretoria. I was in the Peace Corps shoveling debris after the market in the town I was living in, Kumba, burned down. While loading remnants into the back of a dumptruck, the tailgate released and I was crushed between it and the back of the truck. I suffered a fractured skull, numerous cranial nerves were damaged, two of my ear bones disintegrated, and blood flow to the left side of my brain ceased. I would have died were it not for a genetic "abnormality" known as the Circle of Willis which allowed for blood from the right side of my brain to flow to the left side. I have mixed feelings when I think of returning to where my life was drastically altered. For me, spiritually, this is a vital step in my overall healing because it completes a cycle. I know that I will never be the same - I am altered physically, mentally, and spiritually by what occurred on November 17, 2005. For all the difficulty, though, I am anxious to return to Cameroon, to see my friends, to visit my town, to make amends with that dumptruck. I am ready. Next, Cameroon...

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The beautiful game

Call it football or soccer it is still, across all continents, the beautiful game. When performed to its utmost this game is simply magical to watch. When a play is completed to perfection it becomes it is so seamless and graceful that it is impossible not too at least utter "Wow". I have found that this word is almost a knee jerk reaction when a great goal, shot, save, or sequence of passes is made. This World Cup has offered plenty of "Wow" moments.
The World Cup is now in its quarterfinal stage as only eight teams remain. There is a two day hiatus before action gets back underway. This gives the world a chance to take a breath before the craziness begins again. I had my doubts, like many others, that South Africa would be able to pull it off without a hitch. I can honestly say that I have been extremely impressed with what has been done here thus far. In fact, the only trouble that has existed in this World Cup has been the refereeing. Time will tell how that gets resolved, and we all hope that there will not be additional controversy in the games to come. So far, I have visited Cape Town, saw a game in Durban - at perhaps the most immaculate facility I have ever seen a game in (Still have yet to go to Texas Stadium, which I'm sure rivals anything else) - saw a game in Pretoria, and I am set to see games in Joburg and back to Durban. In all places the security has been top notch, transport has been relatively easy and inexpensive (only in terms of shuttles and public transport, whereas taxis are on the expensive side), and there have been FIFA "volunteers" to help direct you to where you need to go. It's typically a good idea to ask a few of these volunteers since they are often so willing to help that they'll give you incorrect information. All in all, the effort of South Africa has been superb, and I am told the influx into the infrastructure and national pride could not have come at a better time.

There is the controversy surrounding the vuvuzela, the "musical" noisemaker that resembles a swarm of bees, heard during all the matches. I must admit I now own three, two I bought and one was gifted to me. I also must admit that when I play it sounds more like a dying cow than anything close to its proper sound. While the television presents the vuvuzela as an annoying background noise I've seen some great playing by spectators. The players of the bugle will create rhythms that others will finish. Last night during the Paraguay vs. Japan match, the Japanese drum and the vuvuzela were paired for a great concerto, or something to that effect. I am in favor of the vuvuzela, and, perhaps it is due to the hearing loss I've suffered as a result of it, but I feel it has a permanent part in the game. The problem as I see it is that it is overused, most likely due to its novelty. I due miss the melodic chants and the beating of the drums, but, as I saw in the Japan game, there is room for compromise.
There are 11 days left of this World Cup and I find myself now looking forward to going to Brazil in 2014. There is unbelievable energy here, and it feels like the UN with so many languages and cultures celebrating together. Things like this need to happen more often. This beautiful game shows how alike we all are. It shows how we too can dance gracefully and in harmony with each other. It is vital to have a venue where this dance can be performed. A place where we are introduced to people we never would have met otherwise. The beautiful game is not simply beautiful because of what occurs on the pitch, it is much more beautiful for what it does off the pitch.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The beat goes on

I am still reeling from the US loss to Ghana, as I'm sure many of you are as well. I found comfort, though, in one thing last night. After the Ghana win I went out onto to Long Street - the Broadway of Cape Town - to watch the celebration. What I saw was all Africans coming together to salute Ghana for their strong play and the continuing of their tournament. It brought a smile to my face to see such exuberance and unity from a continent. So, Americans, all is not lost. There are only four more years until Brazil.

I've been rather busy lately, thus the reason for my lack of posts. There is so much to do and see here in Cape Town, and, for the most part, the weather has cooperated with my agenda. I took a tour of the Cape, visiting the Cape of Good Point, Seal Island, and saw more African penguins. I hiked up Table Mountain, a dominant plateau in the center of Cape Town that offers amazing views of the peninsula and city. I even went diving with Great White Sharks. Granted we were well protected in a cage, but it was an amazing and changed all the stereotypes I had of sharks. They are truly beautiful, inquisitive, and docile kings of the deep.

I'm now off to Durban, which is on the southeast coast of South Africa for my first match, Netherlands vs. Slovakia. My next match after that is Japan vs. Paraguay. Dave, I will be cheering for Japan for you, no worries.

Sorry for such a short post, but I'll be off to the airport hear shortly and want to be sure I get the following pics published.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This, That, and Those

Admitedly, I had my doubts about South Africa being able to pull off such a huge undertaking like the World Cup. But they've taken the pitch with pride and slammed one into the back of the net. So far, I have been incredibly impressed. The energy is contagious and electric. The South African's have pride in themselves and the country they are creating. It is amazing to think that it has been around fifteen years since the end of Apartied. This nation is asserting an identity of unity, and a desire to be exceptional. As an outsider I'm on the bandwagon. Could this World Cup be the turning point in South African's and Africa's development?

On to more selfish matters. I'm staying at an eclectic hostel in a section of east Cape Town called Observatory and will be here through the 27th when I head to Durban. Observatory is a little alternative enclave with dreaded fellows walking around and a laidback vibe. The hostel I'm staying at is "Obviously Armchair" which should give some insight into its mood. Obviously is relaxed by day, but then the attached pub, which is unfortunately located directly underneath my room, comes alive at night. There's a tattoo shop down the street - no plans to partake as yet - and a pool house across from the hostel, which is actually where most of the noise is blasted from. After a few nights I have learned to live with the noise and I'm sleeping better by the night.

Yesterday, I traveled to Robben Island, the prison island where
Nelson Mandela was held. If you've seen the movie Invictus you get a great picture of the confines. Robben Island has been compared with Alcatraz due to its island location and the surrounding shark infested waters (which I hazard to guess are many times worse here in Cape Town. After taking the standard bus and walking tour, I decided to seek out the island's African penguin population. In so doing, though, I missed the return boat and was stuck on the island for two more hours as a penance. Far shorter than many of the prisoners (freedom fighters?) whose cells I'd visited. So, I now had more time to venture out on my own. I spent the next couple hours walking through the prison, spending some quiet time outside Mandela's cell, and looking for penguins with an English gentleman who'd also missed the boat. Whenever possible in life, I'd highly recommend "missing the boat". Take time to journey away from the norm, smell the flowers outside of the box. A wise lady once said to me, "It is easier to apologize than to ask for permission".

Saturday, June 19, 2010


I anticipated my first blog posting in a long time, and in South Africa for the World Cup, to be all about vuvuzelas, sport, and cheer. While I have no doubt that there will be much of this to come, my first tale on the journey revolves around the idea of perspective.

First of all, I arrived safe and, relatively, sound last night (time difference being 8 hours ahead of those in Colorado). After over 26 hours of arduous travel I set down in Cape Town ready to get to my hostel and sleep. I gathered my backpack and set off to find a cab. While walking towards the airport exit I was approached by a man asking if I needed a ride. I told him I did, showed him where I was headed, and, after a bit of price bargaining, headed to his van. I felt a tad uneasy about taking the first transport offer I received, but the guy seemed nice enough, and I was far too deliriously tired to rethink my decision.

The ride took about 20 uneventful minutes filled with mundane chatter about weather and how busy the World Cup had made things. Upon arriving at my hostel I handed him 200 Rand for the agreed upon price of 150 Rand. Well, of course, he didn't have change, which I should have anticipated. So, the driver suggests I run into a local convenience store to buy something and get change. He pulled up to a nearby store, I hopped out, bought water, received change, and gave him exact payment - all of which took about two minutes. I grabbed my stuff and headed into the hostel. Feeling something was amiss I quickly checked my carry-on to ensure I had all my entertainment goods. I checked the first pocket and instantly realized that my iPod and two pairs of headphones were gone.

Please allow me to step on my soapbox for a moment. I could have gone one of two directions: 1) I could have been angry at the world for doing this to me, or 2) I could have shook my head and laughed at my stupidity for leaving my things unattended. Both of these choices depend a great deal on perspective. I settled on the latter. I knew that bringing my iPod was not the wisest decision. I knew that leaving my things unguarded was lazy and stupid. I had no one to blame but myself. Of course, if I find the driver of that orange fan I'm sure I can find some blame to pass his way.

Persepctive. To quote the Tao Te Ching, "The more wealth you possess the harder it is to protect." While I don't have my tunes for the next several weeks, I am alive, in great shape, and ready to embrace the atmosphere of the World Cup. I will try to attend better to my possessions, but realize that when they are taken they can be replaced, or not. I will step down from the soapbox.

I'm now setting off to explore Cape Town and that it has to offer. I'm looking forward to cheering loudly for Les Lions as they take on Denmark tonight, and extremely excited about all that exploring a new land offers.

Lastly, I wish to extend my heartfelt appreciation to anyone who is reading this. I emplore you to take a moment to think about your persepctive and how it impacts your worldview. Will you stay angry at the world or laugh off the challenges and embrace difficulty?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Heading towards a New

It has been far too long, but what I've discovered is that this blog has been somewhat therapeutic for me. So, when I don't write, things, for the most part, are going well. The reason I write now is because I am compelled by inspiration and I've discovered the time and motivation to do so.

To recap the last few months or so. Last time you all tuned in I was having eye surgery to straighten out my peepers. The eye surgery went well, but the docs needed to go back in this March to re-straighten them. Apparently, the Botox was a bit too strong and, after going inward, my eyes slowly began to creep outward. Kinda scary!
So, for the surgery in March the doc tightened two of the muscles and put adjustable sutures that dangled from each eye. As I woke up the doc pulled on each suture until my eyes were aligned. Freakin' crazy!

Since then my eyes are slowly getting better, but are straight. The facial nerve continues to grow and gain strangth. I can creep a grin and hope to wrok my way to a grimace. Then, look out smile! I'm extremely hopeful that everything will workout in time.

School is going very well, and I've slowly worked my way up to full-time which continues to exhaust me. I've changed to an International MBA and was accepted to DU's Graduate School of International Studies, so I'll be getting a dual-degree there in Global Finance, Trade, and Economic Integration. Pretty heavy duty. Also, I'm looking to start driving, with supervision, in the next couple weeks or so.

All in all, things are going very well. I can now see the light at the end of this long and circuitous tunnel. I always knew it was there, but I never realized how far it was. I have learned and continue to learn about myself and others through this experience. And I leave you with another quote by Lao Tzu, cuz that's how I roll:

In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.

To fnd the origin,
trace back to the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free from sorrow.

If you close your mind in judgments
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren't led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I can't say it's the end

I apologize to all of you who are still devoted readers of this blog for my extended absence. Grad school has taken a great deal of time and brain power. I am now done with my first quarter and have nothing but rave reviews. Call me crazy (but not to my face), but I love school. I never thought I'd say that, but it is very nice to back in the academic environment. I have met some amazing people and know that the next year and half will be time well spent. I'm sure that the plethora of experiences that await me will be both novel and diverse.

Next Thursday, the 6th, I'll be having eye surgery where they'll unsew my right eye (it's about freakin' time) and straighten both eyes. The recovery is about 3 months and then they'll decide whether a second, and final, surgery is necessary. The reason for the long recovery time is that the doctor will transfer pull from the outside muscles, which are shot, to the top and bottom muscles which will cause the eye to pull out. Then, the inner muscle will be shot with Botox causing it to become paralyzed. As the Botox wears off, thus the 3 month time line, the eye will be become straight. Hopefully, that explanation made sense. I find this stuff extremely interesting, so I'm hopeful that my loyal readers do as well.

I start the next quarter January 3rd, so I'll have to find a way to once again adjust to change. I am just so ecstatic that a monumental event is taking place and that the next step in this process is occurring. While it has been difficult I have had so much support from everyone around me and I've discovered that with a positive attitude life is a bit easier. I don't want to preach, but... I am a Fatalist by nature. I truly believe that every event is predestined and this experience has only strengthened that understanding. I have never, and will never, regret any event or experience I've had or will have. They have all made me the man I am.

I leave you with thanks, and a quote from the Tao Te Ching:

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.

If you realize you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.