Goodbye, Ayoba World Cup

July 12, 2010

Part of the Cape Town fanwalk with Table Mountain in the background

It’s been fun and it’s been (mostly) exciting. And it’s united the country like never before. So for these and other reasons I’m happy we had the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. No analysis of the tournament from me today. I’m sad that the Netherlands didn’t win it. But I’m happy that they came very close and that Robben didn’t dive in the penalty area the way that many many others players would have. Maybe the better team won. At the end of the day, does it really matter?

Of course my attention is massively diverted by my upcoming Sudan trip and so I probably won’t allow myself to post more than a few words before getting back to work. But the reality of this job is that a lot of the time it’s about “hurry up and wait”. There’s nothing pressing that I need to do in the next 30 minutes for example but I know that I will feel guilty about blogging for more than a few minutes. Something to work on I guess, those guilty feelings.

But while I’m here I want to show you a few images* I took from our trip down the fanwalk in Cape Town the other day. I loved the atmosphere and the colour and the flags. I could have done with less annoying vuvuzela blasts close to my ear-drums though. I would find myself whipping around in anxiety at an ear-splitting cry from a distressed hippopotamus to find that the sound was coming from a small 12-year old boy. No doubt he was mighty pleased that he could produce such a powerful sound. My rather uncharitable wish in those circumstances was that whoever bought him the annoying plastic trumpet gets to enjoy the sound of it as much as the rest of us.

More of the fanwalk

In the jungle, the mighty jungle ...

The t-shirt in the bottom picture shows the inside of a lion’s mouth. That’s another thing about this tournament – it really brought out people’s creativity. From a marketing perspective alone, this was phenomenal since the whole country now associates the word “Ayoba!” with the cellphone provider MTN. We don’t actually know whether this is a real word or not but we all know that it has to do with parties, massive excitement and the soccer world cup. Here’s hoping that the next one (in Brazil in 2014) is equally Ayoba.

* Click to enlarge

Baby A and bye-bye Bafana

June 21, 2010

1. Welcome to Baby A! L’s sister-in-law gave birth to a bouncing baby girl at 00:01 on Saturday morning and L already seems to be falling in love with her. My comment to the tired but obviously relieved and happy parents, after “she’s beautiful”, was to wonder at the fact that newborns come into the world with hair and fingernails. The nurses put on mittens to prevent her from scratching herself and then the security guard made sure that we didn’t steal baby A by restricting the visitors to three at a time. Later, L and I were walking through the Waterfront and suddenly I heard a sharp intake of break from next to me as L caught sight of some pink booties which just had to be snapped up as part of the welcoming gifts. I’ll admit that I thought they were cute but I was quite amused at the speed with which L appeared to bond with them. It’s as if part of herself was immediately invested in these tiny items of baby apparel.

2. There’s not much to be said about patients who don’t show up for their appointments and don’t call to cancel but I feel that I want to say something anyway. Firstly, they always leave with me a bit of a dilemma: do I call them or don’t I? If I was in private practice I would definitely call but when you’re working for the government we both know that they can probably reschedule at some point. Maybe he just didn’t feel like it today since it’s cold and rainy. Maybe he’ll call me tomorrow and say he forgot. But it does make me wonder about his suitability for therapy. After two no-shows, I start to think that he’s not really cut out for the responsibility that therapy involves.

3. I realised for the umpteenth time today that I’m just not getting round to reading all 79 feeds on my blog-reader. But who to cut and who to leave in? And on what basis do you cut? As a rule of thumb, if someone has 200 posts that I haven’t read then I should probably stop deluding myself that I will get round to reading them soon. But what if I’m the last remaining subscriber? How could I be so cruel? Well, the fact that a blog has one subscriber doesn’t mean that it only has one reader since many readers don’t use blog-readers anyway. And also, blogging is as much for the blogger’s benefit as it is for the readers so I really shouldn’t worry so much. But I know I’ll probably get distracted by the blogs themselves and leave most of them in.

4. While on the subject of not making the cut, it’s sad to see South Africa crash out of the World Cup after only three games and especially after spending so much money to host the whole thing in the first place. But Bafana Bafana are clearly not quite up to the standard required at this level and I suppose there’s no shame in acknowledging that. I still think it’s ridiculous that FIFA doesn’t make provision for TV replays but all the TV replays in the world probably wouldn’t help Bafana Bafana (literally the boys, the boys) to make it to the knockout stages. And having watched England rather tamely draw with Algeria on Friday night, I’m a little concerned about their prospects as well. But at least I got a few photos out of the game.

Notice how their open mouths predict the score (0-0)

World Cup Fever

June 14, 2010

On Friday night I was lucky enough (thanks to my brother) to attend the France vs Uruguay World Cup match at the new Cape Town stadium. What a beautiful stadium it is too. The vuvuzelas were LOUD and quite annoying but the atmosphere was good and it was an amazing experience.

Unfortunately there were no goals in the match but I saw enough of Diego Forlan (the main Uruguayan striker) to fear for South Africa’s chances on Weds night. And the French were classy as always and very assured on the ball. Bafana Bafana will have to play out of their skins I fear to progress to the next round.

People were dressed in their national shirts and flags and my brother had a miner’s helmet cut out into football-fan-like shapes. It was a bit like being at a rock concert without the music. In place of the music we had the angry buzzing of a swarm of vuvuzelas but were armed with earplugs and so our hearing probably survived unscathed. Journalists have been having fun with South Africa’s latest cultural weapon, one wag changing the slogan of the national broadcaster from “Feel it! It’s here” to “Hear it! It’s deafening.” I see the Dutch also have their own version called the “HoorNichtsMeer“. As someone who is easily startled by loud noises, I find the vuvuzela a bit of a trial but it also adds to the general sense of excitement surrounding these games.

The French fan in the middle to the left here came prepared with industry-strength ear protection and he also added a blue beret and a straggly beard. His compatriot two seats down has a blue, white and red Mohawk. I had to smile at the couple dressed in the Irish flag who came to register their disapproval at France’s progress to the finals based on Thierry Henry’s outrageous double hand-ball.

It’s hard to believe that this will all be over in just under four weeks. I hope for the Socceroos’ sake that the rest of their World Cup is better than last night’s game. Germany were scarily efficient in disposing of them 4-0. Spain are still the favourites to win it but you can’t rule out Brazil. Should be interesting to see how it develops.

On the book front I’ve been reading Philip Pullman and, well, Philip Pullman. I loved Northern Lights and The Subtle Knife but will have to wait a while to get hold of the third in the series, The Amber Spyglass. I’ll think of something profound to say about those two while I enjoy the rest of the soccer.

For now though, it’s great to be a South African and to forget about our national problems for a while. On July 12th we’ll start to worry about corruption and crime and poor service-delivery. For now, it’s about uniting behind the boys in Yellow. If only they can score another goal like Siphiwe Tshabala’s cracker on Friday.

Mirror socks and giant vuvuzelas

May 31, 2010

Cape Town stadium as seen in the mirror

Yesterday was a good day, which makes the shock of Monday morning that much greater. This morning didn’t start well. I knew when my alarm went off at 5.45am that I needed to make a concerted effort to get to work in time for 7am rollcall. But when the electronic gate didn’t open and I had to find the key and then shoo the geckos out of the motor and then write a note for my neighbours and all this at 6 o’clock in the morning I was pretty sure that I would be late. And I hate being late, especially since I got some ‘feedback’ on Friday that I am often late.

Friday was a horror. Compulsory staff workshop in the afternoon at which I battled to stay awake and almost had to prop up my eyelids with matchsticks to avoid embarrassing snoring. I eventually settled on writing down random words which the presenter said (but which I couldn’t bring myself to attend to) and trying to stay awake that way. It wasn’t pleasant and I was partly to blame for having two slices of cake over lunch. But what got me rattled (and I seem to rattle easily these days) is that we were forced to give anonymous feedback to each other about our strengths and weaknesses.

‘Don’t worry,’ said Presenter C, ‘the feedback will be anonymous and I’ll find a way to use it creatively.’

That’s OK then, I thought, the Major won’t see that this feedback is from me. I can happily write away and perhaps the presenter will pool all the comments on a flipchart. What a relief.

‘But I don’t want to see ten strengths and only one weakness’, continued Presenter C sternly. And like a fool I complied, dutifully writing an almost equal-length list on both sides.

The idea of anonymity in a small sickbay like ours is a bit laughable though. With only one psychologist in the group, who else is going to use words like defensive, self-esteem and conflict management? And of course handwriting is pretty easy to decipher as well.

The ‘creative’ way that the presenter thought of to share this feedback was to simply walk over to each person and, with a small delay, hand them their ‘feedback’. Shock and horror. My piece of paper (in a handwriting I know well) said that I was temperamental and often late. Fair enough. There were positive comments too but it was the negative ones that stood out.

And then I was too mortified to see how the Major took my constructive comments that she was perhaps stubborn, defensive, avoids conflict and that she sometimes appears to lack self-confidence. The sugar and my resentment worked together (along with the boring content) and for the rest of the session I was away in my own world, trying to stay awake.

Fast forward to this morning and I’m trying to be on time in order to show that I’m addressing this weakness in my character. Although of course I didn’t have to. I could have happily agreed that I am often late and that I quite like it, since I get to miss standing to attention during the national anthem on a Monday for example. It’s no big deal. Oh, if only I was as laidback as that.

But on to other things. The picture above shows Cape Town stadium as reflected in my car mirror, decorated with mirror socks in the spirit of the World Cup. Quite a few cars have these mirror socks and also flags and the spirit is if not quite at fever pitch then well on the way.

To give you another idea of the football fever that is set to become seriously over-cooked in the next month or so, I give you … the giant vuvuzela.

This is like a giant kid’s toy which has been dropped on the uncompleted freeway near the Waterfront. Hyundai clearly spotted a gap in the market for such a toy and combined it with a giant electronic scoreboard so that we can all see how many days there are to the World Cup. Apparently the giant kids who will be operating this device promise to blow a big, loud blast of hot air whenever there is a goal scored at the Cape Town stadium.


May 24, 2010

Kirstenbosch top gate waves the flag

There’s a general sense of expectation in the air as we count down the days to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa. Even Kirstenbosch top-gate is getting in the flag-waving spirit as we noticed on our walk yesterday. The World Cup also means that we (as military health personnel) are not allowed to take leave until the end of July, by which time I will probably need to deploy to Sudan for three months. I think I’m in denial about that and have done very little by way of preparation.

Today I also want to show you my new couch, which was delivered last week. I’m really pleased with it and also my ‘therapy chairs’ for when I finally get round to starting a private practice.

And then another exciting development has been the transformation of my garden. At the start of the year, this was what my front flower-bed looked like.

Now I don’t have a picture of what that bed looks like now (better, with living plants as opposed to dying ones) but I do have a picture of the side of my house, which has been transformed thanks to my mom. She organised the builder for the deck and the trellis and the paving-stones and her gardener planted some new plants (honeysuckle, clivia etc.)

The next transformation that will need to take place is that of me, from a reluctant gardener who associates watering of plants with teenage chores to a patient and enthusiastic nurturer of plants.

I’ll be back shortly with a review of “Bad Blood” by Lorna Sage, which I read for the Slaves discussion. The positive psychology follow-up will have to wait until I finish the Fredrickson book.