Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Off to Mozambique.

I can't believe I have been so busy these past few days that I have not written and this should be my shortest blog entry ever. It is going on 11 PM and I have finished everything but packing my bag for Mozambique. I need to choose my clothing, etc. and then sleep to wake up after 5 AM tomorrow. Marcilio and I head off after 8 and will arrive in Maputo around 16:00 and then travel to Chokwe from there. I don't know how much I will be able to write over the next few weeks but when I get time and the internet cafe in Chokwe is open I will pop in and share. I will come back with many stories and photos on the 3rd of January. Have a nice holiday season and enjoy the New Year. I can't wait for my first return to Moz in almost two years. I was there in early 05 so I have only been gone a year although it is really more like two!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

My first major league/professional soccer match in person.

Marcilio, Norman (a fellow HIV/AIDS worker who has contracted with ETC), Norman's brother Raymond and I went to see the Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs play soccer today at FNB Stadium (also known as Soccer City) near Soweto. The two teams are huge rivals and their supports are avid as well as a bit crazy but really know how to make noise and support their side. Marcilio and I took well over a hundred photos but I am having trouble finding the cord so I will have to download, select and edit them later and put them up before I leave for Mozambique if I find the time.

It is hard to believe that this was my first experience after all my travels and work in North and South America, Europe and Africa seeing a professional soccer match in person. I have seen minor league games, mainly in Portland, both the US men’s and women’s teams play exhibition matches, Mozambique’s Black Mambas play a friendly against Zambia or some other country but never before a pro league soccer/football match. I really haven’t watched much soccer on TV here as this is mainly a rugby and cricket household but I wanted to go to a game since coming.

The game was sold out and standing room only and they even let some people fill the aisles using the steps as seats. We chose to sit at the top section at about midfield to have a good view birds eye view over the game, crazy Chiefs and Pirates supporters and get a nice view of the Joburg skyline, mine tailings Soweto and hundreds of cars. The pre game entertainment was from a South African group whose name I don’t recall that played some great music and got the crowd signing in unison. Before the game Marcilio and I walked around taking pictures of vendors, supporters of both sides (in the US I would say fans of both teams, but when in Rome….), the crowd filling the seats and more. We returned to find that Norman and his brother hadn’t held two seats for us very well and thus Norman gave us his seat and he went to find another one.

The Pirates scored early and held most of the momentum, energy and attacks throughout. We were sitting on the Chiefs side, with the sun behind our backs and as I was wearing my South African Bafana Bafana (boys will be boys) jersey so as to support the national men’s team and thus not provoke fans from either side to give me a hard time, I rolled up the collar to act as good protection against the sun. I had heard about fights at these matches, chairs being torn out and or burned and more but on this day to my knowledge none of this happened and people seemed to get along well.

At halftime the entertainment was a more “hip” musical group that the pre game one who moved around the field signing to the four sides of the stadium. Then the “Amakhosi” cheerleaders or whatever the girls are that dance for the home team Chiefs came on to dance to Justin Timberlake’s (I am sorry if this mention of his name gives him any positive publicity) Sexyback. The song alone is bad enough but then to have watch the cheerleaders joined by 20 or so girls from about 10-18 dance in sexually provocative ways made it that much worse. I swear some of the cheerleader minis they had join the big girls must have been between about 10 and 18 and when you see dances like this by children you can see how it adds to the shockingly/disgusting high percentage of rapes in this country. Children grinding and bumping in short skirts in front of drunk spectators doesn’t really help the situation. I wonder if I was the only one thinking about this as it was going on or even now after the fact.

Back to the game the second half saw the Pirates having many more opportunities off of penalty kicks, corners and headers to score but they failed to and in the last minute of the game (injury time) this failure to go up 2 to 0 came back to hurt them when Shaun Bartlett (no relation to the President on the West Wing) scored off a header in the closing seconds. It was a bummer seeing as how the Pirates had dominated most of the game. Some Pirates fans had started celebrating with about 10 minutes to go and were getting rather obnoxious and I don’t think they actually even saw the game as they were too busy dancing, tooting their horns and harassing the Chiefs fans. For more on the game you can see the write up at South Africa’s Premier Soccer League (PSL). Also to find out more about the PSL, standings, etc. go to Premier Soccer League. Speaking of standings I am used to looking to see the schedule of when teams are set to play and the standings of how the teams are doing in terms of wins, loses and ties but here fixtures seems to be the word used for schedule and results for standings. It took me some time to find the schedule on the PSL site to see when games would be taking place as I didn’t know what fixtures and results meant in this context.

FNB is home to the Kaizer Chiefs and the Pirates play closer to Soweto. FNB is going to be the main stadium for the 2010 World Cup the dates for which were just announced this last week. Supposedly this was the last game to be played at the stadium before reconstruction commences to make the stadium fit close to 100,000 spectators. In the shape we found it there is much to be done to clean, upgrade, add on to and get the stadium in World Cup shape. The construction was supposed to have started in early 06 and not now at the end and it is supposed to be done at some point next year to get FIFA’s okay for 2010. It is supposed to be the main stadium hosting the opening and closing ceremonies and a number of matches but I am not sure how this will happen if they haven’t started working on it already. For more on the history of FNB you can visit their site but be a bit weary as you might find spelling mistakes and factual errors like I did or go to Wikipedia.

All in all it was fun to go to the game with friends, be warmly received by fans from both sides with my neutral jersey supporting South Africa, see a decently energetic and athletic game, not witness any violence amongst fans and have another cross cultural experience in South Africa. I forgot to mention that I wasn’t the only white person at the game but I would guess that out of the 80,000 or so fans there yesterday I was amongst no more than 100 white people. Most all fans were black with a few of Asian, Middle East or mixed heritage. The goalie for one team was white, the main ref was colored and so was one of the players for the other team. Soccer is primarily a black sport in South Africa and I wonder how these fans who paid 20 rand (a little less than three US dollars) for open seating (the only option unless you are a VIP or have a company box) will be able to afford World Cup tickets in 2010 that I will guess will go from hundreds of dollars to thousands. Ironic that the people in this country who love the sport the most will be least likely to see it in person and that elites in SA (from various racial groups) along with overseas guests (maybe including myself) will be able to see the greatest sporting event on the planet in person.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Gordon maybe we can be friends after all. Senator Smith, a Republican, calls for withdrawal from Iraq.

Coming from a State that has a long history of being progressive and liberal it is interesting to note that Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican, just came out against the war in Iraq in a speech on the Senate Floor. Can you say “flip-flop” maybe but at least he is moving in the right direction and he says at least a dozen other Republican Senators feel the same way. With Bush’s approval rating on Iraq down to 27% a new low by 4% it makes sense that Smith and others are coming to their senses whether sincere or just a survival reaction to better their chances of reelection in 2008. To hear the full speech you can visit Air America’s station in Portland KPOJ 620 AM. This may just be one more reason I am prouder to call myself an American and especially an Oregonian. I will be interested to be home for a few days in February and see how the climate has changed in the States!

P.S. I am not sure that immediate withdrawal and leaving Iraq completely on its own is the best answer but I know that the mess the US Government has created in the Middle East must take a different direction. I was appalled the other day when I heard that over 13,000 civilians have died in the area since we invaded a few years back. Plus the over 2,000 US soldiers.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

ESPN for social change?

I came across three articles written recently by LZ Granderson a columnist who writes for’s “Page 2” and wanted to share some insights from them and recommend that you read them. Although ESPN basically reports the news in the sports world it does from time to time tell of NBA poets fighting racism, Olympic athletes promoting sports in underdeveloped countries and in these articles racism, stereotypes and the “n-word”.

The original article “A word with consequences” is well written and insightful and from the follow up written by Granderson sparked interest, controversy and responses from around the world. In it Granderson talks about the “n-word” and uses snippets from interviews with white athletes and musicians about this controversial word. He makes a plea to the likes of LeBron James, Donovan McNabb and Carmelo Anthony to be role models and come out publicly against the use of the “n-word”. He says that athletes have more power than musicians which I am not totally sure about but any start to end the use of this word which has such a terrible history attached to it is a good one.

The second article (found with either the link to the first article or the final one) is a brief follow up to “A word with consequences” and University of South Florida football team which apparently due to the first article decided after debates amongst the athletes to stop using the word in their vocabularies as players and pedestrians.

The final article, “Blake ... or fake?” is about Granderson’s brief stay in Stockholm to cover a small tennis tournament and how he was a star in the eyes of the fans outside his hotel for a few days as he was believed to be either a tennis star such as James Blake or one of the Brazilian soccer (football) players staying at the same hotel. In this city which he said has very few people of color it is interesting to hear how he felt and was treated.

I don’t believe I have read any of Granderson’s columns before but if they are as thought provoking, honest, insightful and socially conscious as these few then I will be reading his work more often. I too have found that social change must often come from the groups being exploited, abused and repressed as they often have the strongest voice and most reason to change the ills being inflicted on them by individuals or society. I for one have always known that the “n-word” is not something to say or enjoy hearing and cringe each time I encounter it in text, music, TV, etc. I find lots of music to have great intoxicating beats but when I encounter this word I often choose to not listen to certain songs or artists again.

I would like to leave you with this quote from A word with consequences which sums up the recent use and abuse of the “n-word” and the disconnect amongst many that are using it with the history and baggage attached to this word.

"It's always n-this and n-that," he says. "On one hand it's just a word, but being raised in an environment where you're taught to never, ever use it because it's so painful, and then see the people who are supposed to be hurt by it use it with each other all of the time, I think sends a mixed message. I'm not using it, but nowadays you hear Latinos use it, young white kids use it. … It's ironic that as the world gets more and more politically correct, you hear that word more often, not less."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Back safe and sound from Cape Town and busier than ever.

My flight to Cape Town was delayed two hours but the one on the way back actually left a few minutes early and got us in about 15 minutes early. I had a great time with Chris and Xoliswa April from Saturday night till Tuesday afternoon and am really glad I took this chance to see my friends. It was a good experience to be in the townships for three nights and I met many nice people, enjoyed the rain and the sun, took lots of pictures and had some great conversations. I will share more tomorrow but I am currently very tired and trying to get through all the emails I got while gone. I need to run to the Brasilian Embassy tomorrow to turn in my visa application, do some shopping, start one of my final days of work with ETC and continue getting ready for Mozambique, Kenya and Brasil. I have a feeling my blogs are going to get shorter this next week and then once I am traveling I will do my best to write once or twice a week. I will share photos when I get a chance as well as more on my three day stint in Cape Town.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

72 hours in one of the most stunning cities in the world. Off to Cape Town to stay with friends in Nyanga East.

I am very excited to be packing my bags to head off for three days in/near Cape Town. I will be staying with family friends the Aprils who live in Nyanga East which is one of the many townships outside Cape Town and is near Cape Town International Airport. It is near Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Langa and other townships. I have been to the April’s home before when my mom, dad and sister were in southern Africa in 4 years ago in December and I came from Mozambique to travel with them. I first went to this area in 2000 when I was on the 6 week study abroad through my Alma Mater Principia College. I then visited Gugulethu and Khayelitsta. I will share much more when I get back late Tuesday night. If you visit you can learn more about Nyanga East and the other townships in the area plus those throughout South Africa. And for those of you who are concerned to hear I will be spending three days in a township I am confident that the April’s their neighbors, etc. will treat me with love and respect and I will have great stories to share with you. Also the Aprils are well known and respected in their community and doing great things through their church, theatrical groups and more. Finally, Nyanga means “moon”.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A very positive day with negative results. Out of 82 people who did VCT only 7 were positive for HIV which is a very low percentage for South Africa.

Today with World AIDS Day ETC did VCT (volunteer counseling and testing) at a government department in Pretoria. Doug, Ben and another counselor counseled 39 of the 82 people who used the oral test to test for HIV. We would have seen more people but the ceremonies before the testing started late and ran over and we were only left with about 4 ½ hours to do as much counseling as possible. I didn’t counsel nor have to chance to sit in on a counseling session as I was charge with watching over the people waiting to be tested, keep the devices in a private place where only the counselors would know the results and make sure the counseling ran as smoothly as possible.
Out of the seven people who tested positive for HIV only one came to get their result and go through counseling. I am glad that out of 82 people who test only seven were positive as this is a much smaller percentage than the national average of around 30% yet I have a feeling that many who knew or thought they were positive didn’t test and since only one who tested and was found positive came to get their results it leads me to believe the others knew or were suspicious that they were positive. Ben, Linzi and another counselor or two will be going back and continue to share the results and counsel this coming week at this same department as well as testing new people who didn’t do the oral test with us today.
This is a brief blog as I am tired and need to rest to get up tomorrow to try and catch up on emails, prepare for a short three day trip to Cape Town, continue working on my plans for Mozambique and Kenya and write another entry or two before I leave.