Tuesday, August 17, 2010

1985: A good year.

After all of the excitement of the city life in Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria it was nice to go back to a more relaxed Cape Town. It was a bitter sweet return to the Grundlingh family, however. I knew it would be the last time that I got to see them for some time. Our last few days were spent walking around Stellenbosch, trying to go on a rainy hike, and a celebration.

I was woken up on the morning of August 7, 2010 with a cake made of oranges, shells and rat shaped sugar candies that had two huge candles: one was a 2, the other a 5. This is how my quarter century birthday celebration began. Marizanne and I then spent the morning in the Mbekweni township to attend a women's day soccer tournement that her organization SCORE (http://www.score.org.za/) put on. The simply constructed soccer stadium in the middle of the township was filled with dancing, music, singing and soccer. Even though the volunteers or the locals hadn't ever met me before, I was encouraged by many of them to dance and sing, even though I dance like a white girl....really. One boy sat practically on top of me in order to give me the rythm of the song/cheer that the group of teenagers behind us was singing. It was quite an experience.

After leaving there the Grundlingh's along with a couple of other friends I have met since being in South Africa all dressed up and began with Champagne cocktails. That was followed by an excellent dinner at the Spier vineyard restaurant called Moyo (http://www.spier.co.za/index.php/what_to_do_at_spier/moyo_at_spier/). I was brought onto stage and made of an example of as a man dressed up like a Xhosa tribe leader sang to me in Xhosa. Thanks Mama Grundlingh! My last night in South Africa couldn't have been better. I miss it a lot already.

I have now been in Spain for over a week and have not written one update about anything. Nor do I have access to put pictures up. Stay tuned for those.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Durban July

Ever been to the Kentucky Durby?
Me neither. But I imagine that Durban July is on the same scale. On Friday morning Michelle and I wake up in Durban and hear everywhere, on the radio, the news, the street posts, about this Durban July. By chance, we are here on that very weekend!! Here's a webiste you can browse to find out more information on the event: http://www.vodacomdurbanjuly.co.za/.
Lady luck was with us! We ran to the mall to find shiny bright outfits and high heels to wear to this event. It turns out that the rest of the Gautang Province was in the same situation. Gautang Province is where Michelle and the rest of the big-city-lifers reside. Durban is their holiday getaway. The Mall was packed with Lexus, Mercedes, and BMW cars with GP on them. Despite the competition however, I think Michelle and I rocked up to those horse races looking like royalty. The only thing we were missing were the huge hats.
Bold Silvano trained by Mike de Kock (For real, that's his name) won the main race. Michelle and I continued to socialize with people of all kinds. Some interesting ones were the locals who approached her asking if she was a swimmer simply by looking at her shoulders. Another is a Spanish and Chilean guy that I stopped in their tracks to talk to because I overheard them speaking spanish. This is rare in South Africa.
The horse races were exhilerating. First you here the thunder of their hooves on the grass, then in an instant you watch these huge animals fly by with teeny tiny very very tiny riders on their backs. What fun!
My favorite part, however, had to be the very last and very unique race. As Michelle and I started to wander away from the course we hear loud cheers from the crowd. I looked up to see where they were all looking then realized there were about 25 guys walking onto the racing track in their underwear. Suddenly, the underwear was off!...then they were off!!...racing, Mustang Style, down the track commando. Stay tuned for pics of that one. ;)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Durban Beaches

The Surf in Durban was considerably differnt than Cape Town or the Eastern Cape. We woke up late the second day of our trip due to some intense restaurane/bar touring and the weather was not so nice. It was also very windy. The craving to surf was very strong, however, so I did the desperate: I surfed a fake wave...in a MALL! What?! It's very different than the real thing.

If you notice by my kook-like positioning on the wave it was very difficult to balance.

We did catch some sun and surf on day two. Michelle and I drove a total of 50 km that day down south from the Bluff up north to Ballito. By the time I had found a board to rent and a spot to surf, the nice offshore winds had turned onshore. Shame.

The final day we were scheduled to leave early in the morning. The weather was so nice, however, that we decided to stay for a few hours more and enjoy some sun and body surfing. Durben is a very nice beachy city. But it's a city that doesn't feel like Africa very much...until a monkey jumps onto the balcony of your hotel room.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mama Africa

Upon my arrival to Johannesburg it was as if I was entering back into some fond memories of mine. Lets go back to new years of 07-08. Marizanne, Sami, Maki, Mpho and I were dancing with fireworks, wine and Brenda Fassie into the new year. Here we are again:

Michelle is my host on this leg of the trip.

She lives in Pretoria now. We will be driving to the coast to see Durban; the city remains summer all year long in South Africa. However, before we go, I get to reunite with the Mtongana family. They are Xhosa by origin living now in Pretoria. Marizanne first inrododuced me to the Motongana family 2 and 1/2 years ago. We spent new years with them and it was she who introduced me to Brenda Fassie. This family is something really special. Sami and Maki are the two youngest and are full of life and it's contagious.

Mpho, the mother, is full of love and wisdom. It's people like these that make me eager to travel back to South Africa.

Monday, July 26, 2010


This is Africa. While watching the local news with a couple of friends of mine in Jeffrey’s Bay that I have met along my travels I learned the meaning of this term. It was used frequently to refer to the backwards and often silly things that happen here. However, upon really thinking about the corruption in the SAA airlines’ finance that was being reported I realized that TIA could be used in almost any country or state. For example, "Thank you for flying with Hawaiian Airlines and Aloha and welcome to Hawaii. Your bags will be here tomorrow, though": T.I.Hawaii. People’s perceptions and ignorance of other cultures is global. Here are a few realities of South Africa that I have learned while being here.

I am back in Cape Town after having spent almost two weeks on the road or in Jeffrey’s Bay/Port Elizabeth for the World Cup and for the Billabong Surf Competition. Now that the traveling and business has settled down I have had the time to talk with local people and do some more touristy things. I have gone to Robben Island, seen the locally made movie “Themba” and spoken with the head professor of the history department at the University of Stellenbosch regarding some of South Africa’s History.

The Grundlingh Family.

Robenn Island was a very interesting experience. Truthfully, I was bored. It was a three hour tour of the island and a walk through the cell with some historical facts interjected in between. It wasn’t completely useless, however. For example, I did not know that it was once a lepor colony. Only former prisoners are allowed to act as tour guides on the island. This makes the experience a bit “one sided” in the words of Albert Grundlingh, Marizanne’s father. The experience became more personal when one of the guides missing about half his teeth was asked personal questions like, “how many years were you in?” and “what was the specific act of treason that you committed?” He was in for 11 years and attempted to use a bazooka to blow up a petrol station. The contoversial side of it that Prof. Grundlingh pointed out is that even though some of the pre-apartheid acts that were committed by minotirites were atrocious and sometimes took a lot of lives, it is sort of seen as a just act because of the political situation. These sort of controversy’s is what makes this amazingly beautiful and mountainous country of South Africa so appealing.

I highly recommend the movie “Themba” as well. If it is playing anywhere in your foreign film theathers PLEASE go see it. It provokes so many emotions in such a short time and pretty accurately expleans the reality of the situation here. It is conveniently about a young boy’s struggle from the rural township in the Xhosa region with soccer. The main message conveyed, however, is the reality that AIDS and education have in South Africa. As Themba was walking through Kayelitsha (pronounced kya-leech-a), South Africa’s largest township located in Cape Town, Moz tapped me and said “that’s how it is really”. She is researching for her masters how to use sport in townships to take kids off the street and out of corruption. Last Thrusday, while I was comfortably in Jbay, Moz went to Kayelitsha with other foreign volunteers in order to conduct soccer clinics. At the end of the day they were going to get some knick-knacks and one of Moz’s co-workers was robbed of the little money she was carrying and the shoes off of her feet were taken from her on the spot.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Camel Toe

Isn’t that attractive? You get used to it if it is your only means of survival in thte frigid 16 degree celcius water of Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa. The booties I wore on my feet were provided to me by my sister-in-law, Katie. What a life saver!

Island Vibe is the hostel that Marizanne, Michelle and I stayed in. It was a very comfotable site overlooking one of the surf breaks, Kitchen Windows. I recommend it for any traveler ona budget. It was a mere 30 minute walk to the epic Supertubes where the pro’s were warming up for the ASP Tour competition that began on July 15. A good website to get updated on the behind the scene event happenings is www.worldprosurfers.com or also the official website of www.billabongpro.com.

The Island Vibe hostel is just that…and island feeling. I felt like I was back in Hawai’I, or maybe even Australia. The only difference is the cold winter air that brings such nice waves. Island Vibe is home to Niel aka “Surf Theory” (his appointed nickname). If you lack things to do on a rainy day in the small village of Jbay, Niel can entertain you with his class on “Surf Theory”. Now, imagine this tiny lanky guy with a mixed accent between a stoked California grom and a thick Afrikaans trying to teach you the theory behind surfing. What does that even mean? It was hard to resist this yellow bushy-haired creature, but Moz and I decided to venture to the other side of the village to surf “The Point” just a few hundred meters down from Supertubes. What a session!! Picture your favorite right-hand clean pointbreak, then imagine it being even better than you thought! The only problem was that, even with two massive camel toes, I only managed to last one hour in the firgid waters of South Africa.



Who cares. It was still epic.

Our last night in Island Vibe was in a communal dorm. Creative measures were taken to block the light as the late night partiers came home.

Monday, July 12, 2010


The bar was the Mexican. The atmosphere was calm at first. The city is Jeffrey's bay. When the final game began there was a mix of sadness and excitement. After this game, there would be no more World Cup. After 4 years of preparation and excitement for SA, it will all be over. Despite that fact, Moz, Michelle and I were still celebrating loudy with bottles of wine, faces painted and good company. What a game. And in the end, the champions prevailed!

We are still here in Jeffrey's bay, home of the longest righthand barrell in the world and the picturesque aloe.

Moz and I will stay to catch the Billabong Pro surfing competition while Michelle returns to Pretoria to work. Shame.

In our down time, Moz and I have caught some really good waves here. We have also gotten the chance to watch some of the pros practicing at supertubes. Very very impressive. The next few days will be recovery and searching for waves. There is a different perspective surfing here, though. For example, yesterday the waves were clean but small, and very perfect. We did not surf. It was a difficult thing to deal with, but when temperature of the water and air becomes just as much of a factor as the wave itself, your perspective changes a bit. How lucky to live in Hawai'i and not have to worry about that.

Until next time...