Saturday, September 4, 2010

Goodbye Good Braai

My last week before heading home was a nice sendoff. A little work, a little coaching, a little playtime, and two solid braais. On Friday, my work with the UJ Office for Community Engagement culminated in our Women's Day Conference at the Bunting Road Campus. The highlights of the event were the keynote address from Graca Machel, and perfomances by the Lebone singers and the young dancers. Lebone is one of the women's residences on the Kingsway Campus of the University of Johannesburg. It was one of the first residences to be integrated, and is now well-known for its leadership in academics and the arts. Among other achievements, Lebone's vocal group has won Serrie, a prestigious Afrikaans singing competition. Before the keynote address, the Lebone ladies gave us a sneak peak of the performances that they will be giving later this month, as they look to win Serrie for a third consecutive year. My money is definitely on them (see video below).

Graca Machel is known by many from her previous marraige to Nelson Mandela, but she is clearly her own attraction. She represents the rare breed of public speaker that knows how good she is, yet resists the temptation to talk forever! I was privileged to be one of the few fellas in the room as she spoke about the role of women in South African/African society in the coming decade.

On Saturday I coached my last games with Wits F.C. Juniors (for now). The U10 boys are preparing for a tournament in Cape Town hosted by Ajax, so I've been training all three teams in that age group for the last month. The boys finished strong with two great games against a notoriously scrappy club from

Robertsham. After the game we headed out to Ellis Park to watch Bidvest Wits, our affiliated/parent PSL team. The Clever Boys made us proud, knocking off the three-time reigning league champions, SuperSport United, in a convincing 3-0 win.

That evening I was in for a truly cross-cultural experience. Sokkie is a form of couples dancing that is popular in the white Afrikaner community of South Africa. Even my host, Adrian, who is white (but not Afrikaner), was a little nervous about the adventure to Santini's. But this is the same man that runs the Comrades every year, so he was up for it. As for me, it certainly wasn't going to be the first time that I was the only black guy at the party (e.g. UHS). As I pointed out to my friends in the parking lot, if I didn't go inside, then there would be NO black guys at the party, and that's just not a party at all. So I sokkie'd, or at least I did my best with the help of some patient instructors (thank you Jana!). As we left at the end of the night, I was tempted to take a picture under the old South African Flag that was hanging on the wall, but I figured I better not try my luck. So, we called it a night and I left in one piece.

The only fitting way to say farewell to South Africa is with a good old-fashioned braai. The only thing better than that is two braais! On Sunday we had a small farewell function at Adrian's house, combined with a celebration for Ernestine's birthday. We were even graced by a suprise performance from the Lebone ladies who stopped by to serenade us... so sweet!

The very next evening the Wits F.C. coaches organized a second farewell braai after my last practice with the U10 players. I already miss working with all of the Wits players and coaches, and I'm looking forward to coming back in the future! Believe me, we have a lot more fun than we let on (see hardcore picture below).

Now that I have landed safely, I can say that the journey back home was flawless. I got to the airport more than three hours before take off. I managed to check my two gi-normous bags without any flak from the airline. I even made it past immigration with minimal hassle, even though my visa had technically expired the day before! I got my VAT refund, but most of it went to the bank that charged a healthy fee to cash the check in the airport. Aisle seat for the first 10 hour flight (check). Exit row for the second 12-hour flight (check). I even got to explore downtown Frankfurt during my half-day layover in Germany. Delicious coffee and a croissant, plus a hair-cut and my first ever straight-razor shave. I've always wanted to try it, but I can never get that scene from The Color Purple out of my head. Anyway, I tried it and my skin didn't like it too much, so that will be the last time. Just another "first" in an amazing three months of exploring the world.
Everyone wants to know what it's like to be back home. The most common question I get is "where you ready to come back?" The easy answer is, "yes." I will always be a Baybie. Plus, if you have to come back home to someplace, it might as well be September in Oakland. If you're here now, you know what I mean. If you're not here, or if you've never been, learnaboutit.
Thanks for coming with me... until the next trip...

Pura Vida

Bibliography for the Trip
-Uncle Tom's Cabin - by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1852)
-Three Cups of Tea - by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin (2006)
-Wuthering Heights - by Emily Bronte
-How Can Man Die Better: The Life of Robert Sobukwe - by Benjamin Pogrund (2006)
-Beauty and the Beast - by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont (1756)
-The Prince (De Principatibus) - by Niccolo Machiavelli (1832)
-The Last King of Scotland - by Giles Foden (1998)
-The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin - by Benjamin Franklin (1791)
-The Constant Gardener - by John le Carre (2005)
-Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy - by Moises Naim (2005)
-The Poisonwood Bible - by Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
-Man and His Symbols - by Carl Jung with Henderson, von Franz, Jaffe and Jacobi (1964)
-So Long a Letter - by Mariama Ba (1981)
-Civil Disobedience (Resistance to Civil Government) - by Henry David Thoreau (1849)
-Little Women - by Louisa May Alcott (1868/69)
-Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud, A Memoir - Cornel West (2009)
-Half of a Yellow Sun - by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2006)
-A Passage to India - by E. M. Forster (1924)

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