Monday, March 29, 2010


This picture is of all our coaches in front of our office, at Sithembile Primary.

As the end of every week rolls around, I begin to get more relaxed and relieved that the weekend is in sight and that things are calming down at work. Fridays are such a different type of day at our office; so you know that when you have made it through Thursday you have pretty much reached the weekend.

On Fridays, we have what we call Development Sessions; they are a day when all of our Coaches come into the office for a few hours to learn better tactics to deliver the curriculum, to receive payment stipends, to meet in their small groups to plan for the next week, and to do general logistics and spend some time together as a group.

The first day that we arrived in Port Elizabeth, we arrived on a Friday. I will never forget it: totally overwhelmed, exhausted and nervous, we walked into the office and introduced ourselves in front of the entire group, then stood in a line as each of them came by, shook our hands and told us their name. I think I remembered one name, Amy, because her name was one of the only familiar sounding names I heard that day. The four of us were completely out of our element, surrounded by 40 loud energetic individuals, speaking in a language we didn’t understand, using dramatic gestures and expressions: the four of us stood like flies on the wall, suddenly shy and quiet, barely uttering a word to anyone, just forcing smiles on our exhausted faces. “So, this is what every Friday is going to be like”, I thought.

As the weeks went by, and we all became more comfortable in the office and around the coaches, Fridays became like a welcomed habit. The format of Fridays has ranged from running activities outside, playing soccer and netball(in which, with all of my soccer coordination, I kicked a penalty kick into one of our coaches’ head), doing skits, sharing stories from their work with GRS and so much more. I wish I had kept track of what we have done every Friday, because each one has been so different, but so interesting.

Now, we have staff meetings on Thursdays, and part of the meeting is deciding what will be on the agenda for the development session. The four of us have become much more vocal in what we think should be included in these courses, and Dom and I have both had the opportunity to help lead activities for the entire group. One of my favorites was when Dom ran an energizer that involves all of them closing their eyes and walking around like an animal, trying to find their animal twin. I had tears running down my face I was laughing so hard.

Development sessions usually begin around 10 am, but the coaches begin arriving at the office between half past eight and nine, so there really is no time to even get settled in the office before they arrive. On Fridays, I usually never even open my computer before the session is over, or at all. I’ve sat on floors, tables, stood and sat outside during the duration of sessions. In short, these do not follow any sort of traditional format. While there is an agenda, and we stick to a time frame, beyond that these sessions are unlike anything I have ever experienced. It will be weird to go back to the States and a job where I will have to adjust to a more routine schedule on Fridays.

It has been interesting to have other guests and interns visit and come into the office on Fridays. They are completely overwhelmed and thrown off, unsure of how to operate, where to make phone calls or use their computer. We usually stake claim of the small closet in our office as our makeshift office for the day, the four of us eating lunch, doing work and making phone calls in a small closet filled with goals, soccer balls, papers and graduation snacks. I would say the closet is about 10 ft by 10 ft; so it is definitely some close quarters. The four of us are all used to sharing space and not really being able to get things done on Fridays, but it is absolutely entertaining to see the panic and frustration on the faces of others as they try to check their email and print things amidst the chaos of Fridays.

Because of Training workshops, end of the month payments and holiday break, we have not had a development course in over a month, so I am starting to miss Fridays. It is weird not having the coaches in our office all the time, checking in and chatting about their week. But, the next development session that we will have will fall on my birthday, so I am really looking forward to that one! I'll be sure to keep you posted. All the best from South Africa!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Take Me Out To The Cricket Match

Over the past few months, Rosie, Dom, Mike and myself have been attending cricket matches in Port Elizabeth. There is a 20/20(20 overs) league, similar to the MLB, which plays across the country. The season is pretty short, and we didn’t really catch on to the excitement until later, but we have all gotten more interested and gained a better understanding of the sport.

Now, to the novice, Cricket seems really confusing. I will admit, I had little interest in watching the sport on television, simply because the rules seemed too confusing; I just didn’t have the patience to watch. But, after going to a few games and getting to root for the home team, I was hooked. PE’s team, the Chevrolet Warriors, also proved to be a very strong team. In the three matches we went to, they won every time. One of the matches was incredibly exciting: it came down to the last bowl of the game(a bowl is a pitch). Basically, it was the Bottom of the ninth with two outs and a full count.

Let me just give you a little bit of a description of the scene at these games: they are crazy! The energy and enthusiasm is unreal. And, the best part about Cricket is that the matches are also very social; you can be walking around, chatting with friends or having a picnic on the grass banks while the match is being played. And, the tickets are affordable, so families and all walks of life are able to attend the matches. To put it in prospective: the tickets are about 45 Rand each, which is about 6 dollars. I don’t think you could even get a hotdog at Fenway Park for that price! So, you know that everyone will be at the matches. And, we see everyone. You are constantly running into people you know or have seen around town. Cricket matches bring in people from across the city. And, they are so much fun. The singing and celebrating in the stands is contagious, and it is one of the few times that you see all generations and races all mixed up together cheering for the same team. There was a really amazing moment at a match we went to where the entire section we were sitting in began singing, “Shosholoza”, a song that was sung by miners as they boarded the trains to go off to work. This song was also the song that united the famous 1995 South African World Cup Rugby team at the tail end of Apartheid. So, it was a really special moment to hear everyone belting this song out at the top of their lungs.

Two weeks ago we went to a match and the same night, at the same time there was also a big rugby match going on in the new World Cup Stadium. PE fans were torn between what match to go to. The four of us were just so psyched that there was so much enthusiasm and pride in the city, and that each match brought such a large turnout. A problem we have seen here is that there is a real lack in publicity for events and such. There are so many cool things going on, but it seems like people never know when and where things are happening, so nobody shows up!

This Friday night was the series final of the 20/20 season between the Chevrolet Warriors(our home team) and the Highveld Lions. This was the World Series of 20/20 Cricket, and we were all really looking forward to the game. We usually buy our tickets a few days in advance, and on Wednesday, Mike went to buy some only to discover that the match was sold out. In just a few days the 17,000 tickets had been sold. We were shocked! We had just assumed that most South Africans would buy their tickets at the door or something; we never thought that people would actually plan in advance.

So, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle: we really wanted to go to the match, but we had no idea how we were going to get tickets. Two other interns, Alex from Cape Town, and Anna from Richmond, were also going to be in town, so getting six tickets seemed nearly impossible.

So, on Friday afternoon, with no plan, only ambition, Dom and I set out for the stadium a few hours before the match was scheduled to begin. Foreign to the scalping world, we thought we would just start asking people for tickets near the stadium. To our surprise, the parking area was already filling up and people were able to enter the stadium hours beforehand. We were torn: do we keep trying to get tickets, hoping we can get six, or should we just go to a bar and watch the game together? After walking and asking people for a bit, one man parked in his car waved us over and told us he had two tickets. We negotiated with him for a bit, looked at the tickets and decided to go for it. Inspired and optimistic, we then decided to divide and conquer: I walked up and down the street and Dom walked along the road asking cars stuck in the traffic. With our charm, American accents and ambition, we were able to get five tickets, and we knew we could get a sixth. As we were celebrating, we decided to examine the tickets again, just to make sure none of them were counterfeit. And, sure enough, the tickets the first man sold us were from 2009. We got scammed! But, luckily, there was still lots of time before the match, so we continued walking and talking, and secured our last few tickets with time to spare. Dom and I were laughing the whole evening about how the fake tickets had been our motivation to get tickets in the first place. But, even though we lost a little money, all of us got tickets to the match and Dom and I met a lot of characters in the process. Having never scalped before, I realized it is much easier than you think, especially in South Africa. As I have said before, Police here are a joke, so cops would walk by us as we were negotiating ticket prices without blinking an eye, so there really wasn’t any issue. It is definitely going to be a big wake up call when I return to the States!

So, we made it into the match and had a great time packed in like sardines into the stadium. The Warriors killed the Lions, and we stayed in our seats long after the match had finished celebrating and dancing with everyone. It was such a great match to watch and a great way to unwind after a long week. And even though the season is over, I have a new appreciation and interest in cricket, a sport I never thought that I would find any interest in, so that is pretty cool. It may not be the Red Sox, but the energy in the stadium and the level of play made for some really exciting Friday nights.

Here is a picture of the four of us with our friend PJ at a cricket match. For this game, we got to sit in box seats for the second part of the game: the view was amazing!