A Week Later

Picture 161Its been a week since my last post, and a whole lot has happened. I didn’t come here to sit around all day and hang out at my computer (just after work) and that goal is finally coming to fruition. I say “finally” like it took longer than a few days, but 3 days with nothing to do, by yourself, in a town you don’t know is pretty boring. Thankfully work started last Wednesday, and my spirit has just been crushed and stomped on by my daunting workday. I work every day of the week from 9:30 to 4, and it is a grind. I’m constantly exhausted and the work just never ends. Waking up at 8:15 is awful, and getting home at 4:30 is one of the most obnoxious things I’ve ever experienced. That puts me like halfway through Oprah, and I miss most of the Today show before I leave for work in the morning. That doesn’t even cover all the prep time I need to prepare for the next day’s slave labor. November can’t come soon enough.

So how much of a jackass would I be if that was actually the way I felt? (Its ok Genie, if the President can call  Kanye one I can use it too) Seriously, 9:30-4 rules. The African work day is about ten times more relaxed than the American work day. People stroll into my office around 11 some days and have the African equivalent of a ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse – usually something along the lines of ‘I had to kill a lion with my barehands on the way to work’ (No lions actually live in the wild in Cape Town), ‘I had to get an AIDS test because I saw blood on the way to work’ (Did you know you can’t get AIDS from just looking at blood? I think you might be able to after the way MSU health people talked about it before I got here) or ‘I passed three gang shootouts outside the local middle school’ (This might be a legit excuse) – and my boss doesn’t care.

Picture 150No doubt contributing to the incredibly slow pace of work is the glacial internet speed. You know when your computer gets overloaded or your network has too many people connected and facebook albums don’t load very fast? Yea, that speed is like someone hit the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon compared to the speed of the internet at work here. I swear I can hear the phone line static thing whenever I walk by the router, and I check like half the time to see if someone is watching You’ve Got Mail. But how good is that Kid CuDi album? It took me three full workdays to download it, and it’s about College Dropout level.

I’m working with 2 girls who are from townships around here to organize and structure Soccer4Hope, an offshoot of Hoops4Hope that’s based on the same ideals – teaching life skills, leadership, and providing structure and productive afterschool activity through sport to boys and girls from the townships around Cape Town and eventually throughout Africa. There are branches of Hoops4Hope in Tanzania, Joburg, Cape Town, and a few other areas throughout Africa, with plans for more, but their home base is my office in Cape Town. They get funding and help from NBA Cares and the Boston Celtics, and everyone in my office actually spent the week before I got here in Joburg at an NBA Cares camp, working with Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitski, and other NBA players.

The program is based around a volunteer infrastructure that extends into each township. Soccer4Hope is based in 4 townships around the city, and has an “All-Star” for each township. These All-Stars are usually between 20 and 25, live in that township, and had something to do with the program before they became All-Stars. They receive a small per diem to cover basic expenses, but its by no means a full time job – although most of them don’t have any other kind of employment. Their responsibility to set up and coordinate a system of volunteer “MVPs” – high school kids from their townships that will become coaches and help lay the groundwork for recruiting kids from the primary schools to participate in the program. The MVPs are the people that work directly with the kids, the All-Stars sometimes work with individual teams, and the handful of people at the administrative level mostly work with All-Stars and rely on them to move information down the food chain.

Picture 147There are really only 2 administrators that work with Hoops and Soccer – the head boss, Kita – an ex-semi-professional basketball player who spends every preseason interning with Doc Rivers and the Celtics, and my boss, Karl. There’s another American intern working in the office too, a kid from NYC named Valerio. The office is very relaxed. It’s basically in a glorified warehouse, and I usually wear jeans and a tshirt and sometimes I’m overdressed. I caught some crap from a few of the All-Stars yesterday for wearing a tucked in button up on my first day, but they’re good people and fun to hang with. I brought Valerio and Raviq – one of the All-Stars who is a little bit older than the others – out with me and the kids I live with last weekend and everybody got along pretty well, although Raviq was laughing at being the token black guy for once, when usually Valerio and I are the token white kids wherever we go with work.

I’ve spent the last week and change organizing, planning, setting a budget for, and implementing a Coaches Clinic for next week and then a Holiday Program for the week after that. The schools here get a spring break the week after next, and we’re organizing a soccer camp from 10 to 3 every day over that week to keep the kids out of trouble and into a structured, productive environment. The Coaches Clinic is so the MVPs know what to coach their teams during the Holiday Program, which should be a pretty full week. I get stations and responsibility at both events, which should be an adventure. Most of the kids from the townships here have never heard an American speak English before, and they always ask me to repeat things or elaborate, and most of the time I have no idea what their names are or what half the stuff they say means. It’ll be fun though – its coaching and working directly with kids, which will be way better than working in an office all day.

After being here for 10 days or so, you being to notice how different it is here. All my coworkers, and all the kids from townships, call stoplights “robots”. As in, “When you get to the robot, turn left”. I still laugh at that, but I’m sure I’ll start calling it that soon. There’s also 14 million little Toyota sedans from the 80s and early 90s in the townships that are called “cockroaches”. They’re basically mini-taxis that will take you anywhere in that township for 5 rand – basically 75 cents. They’re called cockroaches for two reasons – both according to the kids I was driving through the townships with yesterday. 1) “Every time you turn on the lights you see cockroaches scatter, and when you drive into a township you see cockroaches scatter everywhere.” 2) “You can hit a cockroach nine times before it dies, and I’ve never seen a cockroach without at least 3 dents or scratches in it”. The police often set up roadblocks for them, and yesterday we drove through 3 in my 4 hours in the townships. Most of the drivers don’t carry ID and a high percentage of the cars are stolen from other townships, so they’re easy prey for cops here.

Picture 157

Time to go pick up my laundry – I paid six bucks American to drop it off in the morning before work and pick it up washed, pressed, and folded after work. Very nice. More later from the past week – I also went surfing, got drunk at the American Consulate’s private residence on your tax dollars, saw whales jumping in the ocean, and some other stuff I can’t think of right now.


1 Response to “A Week Later”

  1. 1 Dad
    September 20, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Sounds like you are getting settled in and enjoying your internship. I like your writing and pictues, you may have a future as a high paid travel reporter who will be able to get comp flight and hotels for your parents to visit you.

    By the way on the tub thing, I had an apartment for 6 months in college with only a tub and you can buy a cheap rubber shower head that connects to the faucet in the tub and you can sit in the tub and use it as a shower head. Its like taking a shower siting down, easier to drink beer than while taking a regular shower.

    Mom, Frank and I visited Sean last Saturday. He is really enjoying life in his first apartment and likes his classes very much. We got there abot 11, hung out and had lunch, went to the beach and got back to his apartment with just 10 seconds left when MSU got beat by CM. Bummer game but nice to see on their 52 Inch Plasma HDTV.

    Works going good, it looks like I am losing the Ohio territoty but picking up Illinois and the Chicago area while still covering Indiana. Should be interesting and fun area to cover. Hopefully I can have some time to visit with Greg while in Chicago.

    Stay safe and have fun, everyone is telling me they enjoy reading your blog.

    Love, Dad

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