Two One Way Tickets to Cape Town

And only after 2 months, here is the second installment of the World Cup Odyssey. Don’t even ask why it took so long…

Christy and I headed in to Cape Town just after lunch ahead of the England-Algeria match at Green Point Stadium. The train we were on from Kalk Bay must have been on it’s last legs as it took us over an hour to get into town, by which time we were starving. Stopping along the route to the stadium we had a pizza and then hustled past the apartments, restaurants and bars covered in British flags opposite the stadium, to find a place to settle in for the US-Slovenia match. We found a little Asian place just across the street from the stadium and prepared ourselves for the ulcer-inducing match ahead. Wow! What heart. As we all know, the US should have won that game instead of drawing, but throughout the World Cup, the majority of the refs have been less than impressive. Nothing as egregious as what happened to England and Mexico in the Round of 16, but still, bad reversal of a clear goal. It was during this ridiculous come from behind draw that we made friends with the two South Africans sitting next to us. After a few rounds of Jagermeister , we discovered that Glyn owned a chain of hotels around South Africa. He had been given the tickets from some guests and was there to have a good time, and to bring Christy and I along for the ride. About 1 hour before the first whistle, we headed to the stadium with our new friends and agreed to meet up afterwards for some more drinks. What a dismal match. England played uninspired and the Algerians almost stole one.

While I was exhausted and ready to get on a train back to Kalk Bay, Christy convinced me to head back to the pub to meet up with our friends for a few more drinks. We also wanted to follow up on an offer that Glyn had made to put us up one night in Durban in one of his hotels. Since we already had accommodation in Durban and we did not have anything in Jo’Burg confirmed ahead of the Brazil-Cote d’Ivore match in two days, we wanted to see if Glyn could help us out there in instead.  We were then introduced to their two British friends and we proceeded to have an amazing night. For some strange reason, everyone (with the exception of Christy for some reason) around the table resembled somebody famous. We had a Richard Gere look-alike, a chubby Bruce Willis, me in the role of Robert Dinero, and Mini-Me from Austin Powers. More shots of Jagermeister, with a few Tequila thrown in for good measure, and Glyn was not only agreeable to putting us up in Jo’Burg, he was insistent that we not return to Brad’s, but accompany him back to Franschhook in the vineyards to stay the night in one of his villas. So…at 2:45 in the morning, we finally left the pub and drove the 45 minutes out to Franschook. All I can say is wow. We drunkenly slept for 5 hours in a beautiful villa before beginning our odyssey back to Kalk Bay where our car awaited us for another 1,400km drive.

Yes, I forgot to mention that we had planned to get on the road around 6am for the 14+ hour drive to Jo’Burg. That plan went out the window the minute we decided to return to the pub after the England match. A taxi picked us at the villa and raced us to the Paarl train station, which we missed so we headed down the tracks to the next stop. We got there just before the train and somehow stayed awake for the 2 hour ride into Cape Town and then back out on another train to Kalk Bay. Luckily we were not dressed up for the game the previous night like the Livingston’s we saw or else that would have been the longest walk of shame ever. We arrived back to Brad’s around noon and promptly took a nap, agreeing to leave around 4pm and drive through the night. We really couldn’t put it off later because our next game was at Soccer City that next day and really did not want go directly to the game.

World Cup Odyssey: Part I

What a trip. Two weeks straight of football and more football. Good friends, welcoming strangers and few (ok, a bit more than a few) asshole Pommies. Oh yeah, I shouldn’t forget the cumulative 5,000 km we put on our little Hyundai. While it would have been more efficient for me to have continuously blogged throughout our time in South Africa, I honestly could not bring myself to open my computer during the past two weeks. So, here is my attempt to condense two weeks of hectic travel and amazing sport into one, maybe two, entries. Before I begin though, can I respectfully request a moment of silence for the pained Black Stars who, if the World Cup gods had seen fit , should have been preparing for their match against the Dutch instead of flying home to Ghana…

After a brief scare in Harare where South African Airways notified us that our flight to Jo’Burg no longer existed, we finagled our way onto a flight later that morning (June 12th) and arrived a few hours later than originally planned. As it was only the 2nd day of the tourney, the atmosphere in the airport was electric, with a dozen different languages being spoken within earshot and the excitement for the upcoming two weeks palpable. We waded through the crowds to pick up our rental car, which was surprisingly easy considering the long queues at the other rental companies. Soon we were on the road in our little Hyundai, heading south to Pietermeritzburg to link up with friends for the opening US match against England. While some other friends had offered us tickets to this match in Rustenberg (about 2 hours north-west of Jo’Burg), we decided (smartly so, as you will find out later) to opt for warmth and friends. We caught the second half of the match (long dinner) at a local pub and made it clear to all after the English goalkeeper’s gaffe which side we were supporting. What a match! While we did get lucky, we had ample opportunity to win that game outright and decidedly outplayed the dysfunctional Three Lions. What a joy to rub in the face of my British friends!

The next day we prepared for our first match of the World Cup, Germany vs Australia at Moses Mabidah Stadium in Durban. We arrived in Durban early and parked a 20 minute walk away from the stadium. After lunch, we headed down to the beach front to catch up with the other half of our group and caught a glimpse of the 15,000 Aussies who were apparently camping in another nearby stadium. What a sight to see this yellow mass of humanity move freely through the streets of Durban, which if you’ve read past blogs know can be a rough town. The police were thick and most of the road traffic was blocked and I have to say that the freedom of movement without worry was refreshing. We caught the second half of Ghana’s first match against Serbia at a fan zone across from the stadium. What a great place to watch the Black Stars pull of their first win of the tourney, setting the stage for the romp we were about to witness.

Moses Mabidah Stadium is, in my estimation, the best stadium out of the lot in South Africa. With the pitch sunk into the ground so that when you enter you are overlooking the field and the sails supporting the arch, the stadium is awe inspiring and is the most photogenic of South Africa’s stadiums. After making our way through the multiple levels of security and the swarms of Australia and Germany supporters, we found our seats behind the north goal. Great seats overlooking the entire pitch. When the game finally started, the stadium was filled with almost 63,000 people. The tide of yellow that was the Aussie support overwhelmed the south side of the stadium, while the Germans were clustered around the north. Well, you know the rest. Germany destroyed Australia 4-1.

The next day was my birthday, so Christy and I took the day off and roamed the Midlands Meander, a section of rural highway with lots of boutique shops, cafes, cheese farms, vineyards and a micro-brewery. We stopped off at one cheese farm and learned a bit more about how to make cheese (a bit of a new hobby of Christy’s). We then hit Kwa-Zulu Natal’s first vineyard (eeh, doesn’t compare to Cape Town) and then a Belgian Chocolate house. The next day and a half we spent with friends, before returning to Durban for our next match, Spain vs Switzerland. Before that match, we discovered that our favorite hamburger joint had not closed, but only moved to the area where we had parked, so we stopped in for a late lunch to catch the end of the Chile match. What should have been an easy game for Spain turned out to be a loss on a beautiful Swiss header. Spain just never got into rhythm during that match, but since then they have really come on and I think are serious contenders for the cup this year. Anyway, after that late afternoon match, we got into the car and drove the 1.5 hours to Ixopo to stay with friends for the night ahead of our full day drive to Cape Town the following day. We arrived in time to see South Africa lose to Paraguay. Shame. It all just kinda fell apart for them at the end.

4:30am: Wake up. 4:45am: Hit the road. Distance to be traveled: 1,600km. Ouch! Whose idea was this? While it was a beautiful drive for the first 4 hours or so in the shadow of the southern Drakensberg, which by chance was entirely covered in a white blanket of snow, and for a short time thereafter in the eastern Karoo, sections in the late afternoon were painfully straight, flat and barren. The Karoo is a high altitude area of scrub-brush and random cone-like mountains, at least in the nice areas. The rest of a barren flat wilderness of sheep, goats and the occasional small bush. We hit this section of the highway after about 10 hours in the car and were already starting to feel the exhaustion set in. Unfortunately relief was not in sight after the sun set as we hit a long section of construction that dropped us down to one lane with a lot of semi-trucks. We finally pulled into our friend Brad’s place in Kalk Bay, down the eastern side of Cape Peninsula (north of Simon’s Town) around 10pm. 15 hours in the car and my body vibrated to sleep.

Sam Levy’s Village

Life in Harare is nice. This might be one of the most relaxed, laid back capital’s I’ve ever been to and lived in. Traffic, if you want to call it that, can be bad at certain times of the day, but bad is a relative term considering most of the arteries into and out of town are two lane roads. So you might have to sit at a robot (traffic light) for 5-10 minutes. Big deal!The people here are so friendly, even the police and others you have been told you should fear upon arriving here. Yes, you do want to be careful, but if you are simply nice and understanding they will be the same. While life is still restarting itself in this shell shocked country/capital, there are quite a few restaurants and pubs to keep us busy. On top of that, there appears to be an NGO party every weekend…we are just trying to get on the mailing list. And then there’s the weather. Quite possibly the best weather of anywhere in the world I have lived or traveled to to date. I won’t even try to describe, but trust me that you should come and experience it for yourself.

So Christy and I are happy here. While nothing is guaranteed for either of us work-wise, things are getting better. For instance, we finally have a place of our own, just north of a shopping center known as Sam Levy’s Village. 3 different grocery stores (one entirely dedicated to fresh fruit and vegetables), a pub, a couple of cafe’s and other shops, and a Sunday flea market every week. We couldn’t have asked for a better location. Our flat is great and a perfect size for our first digs as a married couple (if you want to see pictures, visit Christy’s blog by following the link to the right). We are slowly putting the house together and once we return from our trip to South Africa in April, we should be nearly there.  Our social life has improved dramatically as well. We both have finally managed to find a couple of expats that we like and see fairly regularly. On top of that, we finally found some Ultimate Frisbee players and played our first game this past Saturday. How wonderful!

So, we continue to get settled in and make new friends; both Zimbabwean and expatriate. We head south next weekend for most of the month of April. I’ve got  a workshop to co-facilitate and a water conference to present a paper at. We will also collect the rest of our stuff and try to consolidate it either in Pretoria or here in Harare. We’ll see how far we get. As I enjoy the cool breeze blowing in on the outdoor cafe I’m sitting at, I remember why we have chosen this life away from our close friends and family…to experience life and wring the most out of it as possible.

Go Blue Devils!

Life Goes On

Unfortunately for you, the reader, there is not much exciting going on in the lives of the Rosenfeld’s in Africa. For that reason, you have not heard much from either of us since returning to the continent in mid-January. Honestly, how can anything really compare to the whirlwind month we spent at home catching up with family and friends and getting married in Puerto Rico. Anything else really pales in comparison. Regardless, I will proceed to give a short update on all the happenings over the past month and a half.

Christy and I arrived back in South Africa as a married couple in mid-January and spent about 1.5 weeks with our friends in Pretoria. During that time, we did everything we wanted to do: sleep in, watch LOST (I managed to get Christy hooked), begin eating reasonable portions (something I did terribly while at home – the 10 pounds I put on were proof), and returned to our jogging routine. It was a great continuation of the honeymoon we never took. We finally returned to Zim at the end of the month, arriving by plane with more baggage than we left with. I’m not sure how we always manage to do this, but we do. I blame Christy’s shoes! Anyway, it cost us a fair amount of money seeing as how British Airways has a completely different policy from every other international carrier in that they only allow 50 pounds per person, not per bag as we had meticulously planned for. Oh well, at least we arrived and immigration gave us a new visa.

So, we moved in with our friends, Liz and John Gair, who kindly offered up their garden cottage to us while we settled in and began looking for our own place. I jumped back into work, while Christy continued her job searching. On my side, things are progressing nicely, with one big potential grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It appears that we are moving nicely through their pre-award interrogation (checking our systems and whatnot to see if we can handle a US grant) and will hopefully move on to the finalization of the proposal and budget in the coming 2 weeks. It all depends upon whether we have met their requirements, but our finance and admin manager feels confident so by extension I do. We have also managed to increase the overall visibility of our organization as whole, becoming a larger player/actor at a national level. Most notably, ZimAHEAD is now a key player on the Social Mobilization Cluster (during emergencies UN agencies implement a cluster approach to managing the different aspects of the emergency – social mobilization is focused on organizing communities or on the ‘software’ side of things as we like to call it) and was recently invited to join the Strategic Advisory Group (SAG), which provides guidance at a national level for all programmatic decision (funding, methodologies, advocacy, etc). Basically, I feel that I have achieved part of what I was meant to achieve and now must land a project to feel fully successful (and I think that is in the cards). Finally, before I left in Dec 09, I had made inroads with EcoNet, a new cell phone provider, in regards to using the Mobile Researcher platform (survey software used on cell phones) for community based surveillance and monitoring. However, I had yet been unable to demonstrate that the platform would work on their network. Well, I finally managed to get it working, but now there seems to be hitches with funding and programmatic decisions from their board. Keep your fingers crossed that I can push through the bureaucracy next week and get this up and running because this could be the first surveillance system for cholera, measles, H1N1, etc anywhere I am aware of that utilizes cellular phones at a community and clinical level. Could be pretty cool.

So that’s my work. Christy is still in the process of finding work, but there are a few things that are beginning to take shape. I won’t steal her glory, but the potential still exists with Solidarites (a French NGO) and she has had recent interviews with Oxfam GB and with the Harare International School. Wish her luck! Otherwise, we are happy to be back here and get settled in. We just managed to extend our visa (at no cost) for another month without having to jump the border, but I think next month we will go south (South Africa) to pick up some of our stuff in Pretoria. Why? Well, because we found a nice flat through our friends the Gair’s that is in a perfect location. The price is right and so is the size so we are moving in next weekend! Needless to say we are very excited to finally have a place of our own, particularly after the disaster of last year’s accommodation and having to share space with the Gair’s. It’s all coming together. Now all we need is some friends! Anyone want to move to Zimbabwe?

Happily Married!

Well. It’s official. I am now a (happily) married man. We returned from Puerto Rico last week Tuesday and have been hiding out at my parents house, taking time to recover and prepare for our long flight back to South Africa. The week in San Juan was perfect in all aspects. The weather. The ceremony. The conglomeration of friends and family that we rarely see. Perfect. As Christy put it, she was a princess for a day.

I won’t go into all the details as I’m sure that Christy will, but on top of bringing in the New Year with all of our friends and family and having a picturebook ceremony facing the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, we spent a day in the El Yunque rain forest on a zipline tour and one evening in Fajardo playing in one of the island’s three bio-luminescent bays. All in all, it was the perfect holiday. To those who could not make it, please enjoy a sample of pictures available on the right. A special thank you to Janine and Adam for sharing some of their pictures from the special day. Thank you to everyone for their continual love and support and I promise in this new year to do better sharing our stories and adventures from abroad. Until then…

Home for the Holidays

Hi everyone. Christy and I arrived in Dallas last week Tuesday for a full 5 weeks of vacation here in the States and needless to say we are very excited. This past weekend we spent with Scott and his family at their new lake house on Lake Livingston. Tomorrow we head over to San Antonio to spend time with the Hotard clan before we head south to Puerto Rico for our wedding. Again, we are very excited about that and look forward to seeing those of you who will be able to make it down to celebrate with us.

Anyway, just wanted to say hello quickly and to also let you know that I’ve uploaded some new pictures to my flickr account as you will see to the right. Feel free to peruse and I’ll try to upload more while I have a good internet connection. Cheers for now!

Guinea Fowl 10 – Jason 1

I know it’s been a minute since the last update and for that (as always) I apologize. I actually have been busy over the past few weeks and just have not had the time to think about anything but work and life. However, as Christy sits next to me working on another application letter and I realize I’m wasting time playing Spider Solitaire, it dawned on me to go ahead and give a bit of an update.

I’ve been busy here in Harare for the past few weeks writing proposals, meeting all of the players in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector and generally bringing myself up to speed on ZimAHEADs activities, both current and past. I’ve met some interesting people over the course of the last few weeks, but the most intriguing of all are our new friends who are born and bred in Zim who have been through the worst times and are now wondering just exactly what is going to happen. It’s quite amazing how it wasn’t until Christy and I traveled south to a town called Chiredzi that we realized most people in general throughout Harare have no idea what is still going on in their country. Most of the people we met down there were still fighting for their lives and livelihoods, both in and out of court. Dollarization (yup, that is the official term for adoption of the US dollar as the main currency) has created a sense of euphoria in the capitol as goods are on the shelves and commerce is allowed to flourish, but in fact, the rest of the country is still struggling to make ends meet. It was a sobering trip, that much is for sure, and has given us a new appreciation for the struggles that the normal person here in Zim have to face. This includes ourselves; still without running water, erratic lights and a general sense of instability (work-wise and personally).

Anyway, in an effort to keep this short, I will give a bulleted summary from here forward of some of the highlights from the past few weeks, starting with the big winner:

1. Hit my first animal on the road and to my great pleasure it was a…(drum roll please)… guinea fowl! That’s right, he ran straight out in to the road Saturday late afternoon as Christy and I were coming back from a day trip out to a place called Tanganenga (a rock sculpture art community). I figured that he, like most of his kin before, would immediately dart back across the road. Nope. He kept on running and managed to find the bottom of my rear right wheel. Pay back is sweet! For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, ask me again sometime later, but rest assured I am due my vengeance.
2. Whirlwind trip across the South African border to re-up our double entry visa at the beginning of this month found me having to make my first official bribe of a public official. Not my proudest moment, but the situation called for it as there was really no other solution. A lack of information (not having a police clearance to go across for 2 days!), unsympathetic staff at the border, and no time to get said document (our visas were expiring that day) forced my hand. To add insult to injury, we were making good time all day after having already logged something like 600 km on the Beast, arriving at the border well ahead of all the traffic, this short delay forced us to join a queue of about 500 people waiting to enter SA. Lucky for me, I’m technically a resident and could use the short line. Average time spent at the border each time: 4 hours. Time it took to come back across after our 2 day break: 45 minutes!
3. Christy and I were stopped at a police roadblock about 70 kms outside of the town of Mutare and immediately were hassled about the state of our number plate. In Zim, there are three types of number plates: black typeface on yellow background (private vehicles), red typeface on white background (public vehicles – transport), and black typeface on white background (diplomats and government officials). Well, we currently have the last type, but our vehicle is private. This of course has created confusion at the many police roadblocks and this one was no exception. After about 30 minutes of inquiry and a failed phone call to Mutare headquarters, they decided to put their flamboyantly gay comrade in the truck with us to go to police headquarters in Mutare to check whether our vehicle was legal. What an interesting hour drive! OHHKAYEE! In the end, everything was fine and I’m not even sure they checked the legal status of our vehicle. I think they just wanted to give our friend a ride.
4. Made some quick contacts in the development arena and managed to get invited to some parties very early on in our visit. To date we have gone to 3 parties, which is 3 more than we have gone to in the past 2 years! The most recent was with a group of teachers from the international school, whom we met at a recent event for the new US Ambassador to Zimbabwe.
5. Have made some very nice Zimbabwean friends who we have joined for dinner and drinks on a few occasions. In fact, one night Christy and I were so desperate to use a real kitchen that we asked if we could prepare a Mexican night for two couples. We had a wonderful evening and even managed to avoid discussions about politics and the economy for most of the night.
6. The Beast is still limping along with her typical need for maintenance about once a month. While a recent oil leak was repaired this week, it appears that the mechanics managed to mangle her beautiful wench up front! I will be going back to have that fixed, free of charge of course.

That’s really about it. The Jacaranda’s are no longer in bloom, but they have been replaced by their fiery brothers the Flamboyant, with their bright red and orange blooms covering the entire canopy. This country is absolutely beautiful and Christy and I only hope that we will be able to extend our stay beyond these short two months.