Building Friends, Developing People
If you give us a ball we’re going to kick it. If you give us a ball and people we’re going to kick the ball with the people.
Our sleeping schedules took a devastating blow when the wake up call came at 6am yesterday morning. We arrived at breakfast in body but not mind and I can’t even remember what we ate but I know a lot of coffee was consumed. These were our last moments in the Team House as once we left we wouldn’t be returning so all of our bags were packed and ready to go. After breakfast we loaded the vans and said goodbye to Clynton before setting out for Robben Island.
Gorgeous Gordon once again timed things perfectly and we arrived at the ferry to Robben Island with barely a minute to spare. We’d seen Robben Island several times during our visits to downtown Cape Town, the waterfront and Table Mountain however it wasn’t actually as close as it looked from ashore. According to my calculations it took about a half hour to ride to the island, which meant Rob “whatever” Hassler had a lot of time to get sea sick. Unfortunately the South African waves weren’t strong enough for his stomach of steel and we couldn’t video tape what would have been nothing short of a beautiful site. Instead, we settled for a few seal sightings and many good pictures.
The tour of Robben Island began with a guided bus tour, which immediately revealed my ignorance as I assumed the Island consisted of a big prison and not the outlying buildings that were all part of the exiles experience. While many of us weren’t able to keep our eyes open the entire time – we don’t wake up at 6am anymore (thanks Corsini…syke not really) – I was awake when we stopped at the Lime Quarry. Once again books would be the best thing to refer to for information but the tour guide explained the quarry was the primary location where the political prisoners worked during their days on Robben Island and inside the small cave located in the Quarry many of the ideas behind the new Constitution were birthed. It’s truly remarkable to look at the place where such important men congregated and picked each others brains not long ago.
After the bus tour everyone was awake because we had to walk through the maximum security prison and no one on the team is that skilled at sleep walking although Ganow could have us all fooled, who knows. Our guide went by Glen and served 6 years of a 25 year sentence as a political prisoner in the prison. I don’t know if anyone was expecting this but it certainly added an entirely new dimension. We learned he was sentenced to 25 years for his role in a political organization aimed at overthrowing the state during apartheid. As his story goes, his unit was returning from a mission when they were ambushed by the authoritites and eventually convicted of treason and conspiracy against the state.
When asked if his unit was violent he said no, not during that mission, however they were willing to use whatever means possible, including violence, to carry out their plan. When asked how South Africa would be different had he and the other political prisoners not ended up in jail he explained that we wouldn’t be visiting South Africa because it would still be under apartheid government. When I replied to this by saying, so you had to go to prison in order to achieve democracy he said. “we could either die, go to prison, leave South Africa or do nothing”. When asked whether he’d do anything different if he had the chance to go back in time he said no, other than do what they did sooner. When asked if he felt their vision for a democratic South Africa had come true, he explained his country has made great progress, however it’s frustrating because change takes time. But, he made it very clear that he had faith in his country and explained a belief exists in South Africa that each day is better than the day before, and every tomorrow will be better than today. To stand in the presence of Glen was a humbling honor.
The tour ended and we parted ways with Robben Island. Once on shore, we roamed throughout the waterfront for lunch and ways to waste time before the bus’s departure with National Geographic on a huge projector screen fulfilling this service better than the many stores. (If you ever see a random episode of National Geographic playing on a large screen in a public area in a major American city let me know, because I don’t know if it’s possible.)
Our next stop was the Chris Campbell Center for an 8v8 game against a local 3rd division professional team, the Cape Town All-Stars. Our game plan remained the same as the one successfully carried out against Northlink, defend really well, let them look pretty on the ball and pass the ball sideways and backwards and once we win it score goals and win. Despite their superior skill we won 4-1, only surrendering a goal because the ref felt bad for the All-Stars and awarded them a penalty kick toward the end of the game. I would have said Ben “I got 4 yellow cards in 5 games during a friendly tournament with the locals” Henry put his cleats into yet another unlucky forward’s shin, however the referee confirmed a foul never occurred over dinner. Ultimately, we might not always look pretty but we know how to win.
The next part of our night had been anxiously anticipated by all. Explained to us as a “shack stay”, we were walking from the field to a local bread and breakfast run by a woman who I’m convinced is the Oracle, Mama Thope. She explained her story and to make it short rather than long, she’s an educated, genuine, warm personality striving to invigorate her community’s economy by connecting nearby houses into her bread and breakfast. In telling us her story she said that when you live in a community like hers, which really suffers from poverty, it’s impossible to try to improve your own conditions without trying to improve the conditions of your neighbors. Therefore, she aims to let every one have a piece of the cake by allowing others to participate in her business. Furthermore, she’s trying to give tourists a real-life experience of the township as opposed to driving through on buses and taking pictures through the windows.
After a delicious dinner at her house with the company of Ryan, Amy and their support staff the team was separated into groups of 2, 3, 4 or 8 and assigned the house they would be sleeping in. Contrary to our assumptions, these houses were far from shacks. They were all permanent structures built by the South African government around 1985 and speaking from my experience, however I’m sure this applies to all of the homes that welcomed us in, they’re all nicer than 622 N. Pine. (For those of you who don’t know, that’s the house that is somehow still standing after myself, Rob, Colin and TBopDon treated it very nicely this year). This morning Coach told us he’d never been to this area of the township and didn’t even know it existed. I think he summed it up best by saying it gave him hope for the area. It really wasn’t bad and the people really were welcoming, kind and genuinely interested in us.
Before going to sleep I sat and talked with the family hosting Rob, Colin, the Wagners, my dad and me and eventually they asked me how America was different from South Africa. First I told them we don’t have beautiful mountains or a beautiful ocean always in site. I also explained how we’ve developed so much of our land to the point that rarely, especially on the east coast, do we ever look out across such spectacular natural landscapes. Instead we see a lot of blight. I also talked about the different sports that are popular in the States, with soccer not playing such a huge role as it does in Cape Town. Finally I told them I’ve rarely experienced people as welcoming, open and kind toward outsiders.
Thanks for the hospitality, Khayelitsha.
In other news, these are some of the random things that cross Grassi’s mind on a daily basis…
there is an average of 400 photons per cubic centimeter in space. This becomes more significant if you think about how dark space seems and also how the earth (a large rock) has zero photons inside of it
on the top of a cliff, it is theoretically possible that a ball thrown diagonally downward goes horizontally further than a ball thrown perfectly horizontal.
if 10% of a rockets mass is fuel, it can hover at a constant height above the earth for approximately 30 seconds
Fern's slacking on uploading the pics but keep checking, maybe they'll appear.