Feb 10, 2014, 3:31 PM EDT
A pair of Notre Dame men’s soccer alums, Greg Klazura (’11) and Mike Rose (’12), are on a six-month internship with Grassroots Soccer in Zimbabwe and are sharing their story with us as it goes. After a crazy first week, the duo finally started settling down in their new digs…
February 3, 2014 – Week In Review (Mike)
I just want to start this post by saying that it will have a lot less whining than Greg’s last post. I don’t know about everyone else, but last week I felt like I was reading the diary of a teenage girl that didn’t get invited to prom. Seriously though, a little dysentery never killed anybody. Also, I’m disappointed to report that our African Super Bowl Party idea never came to fruition since we were having trouble tracking down anything to watch. We wanted to download an old game or even just a football movie since the Super Bowl didn’t start here until 1:30am Monday morning, but unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in doing this.
This week we settled into our house and in general, got more acclimated to the area. Greg, Mike (our new roommate, who is a fellow Bantu player) and I have our own rooms in the house, which is a nice change of pace from last week. We also got more settled in at the office, since the only team events we had to attend were early-morning Af-robics and afternoon training.
I was proud of myself this week because I managed to get a lot of really productive things done, mostly due to our lighter schedule. My first point of business was to make sure that I balanced out my sunburn and got my back nice and crispy. Really procrastinated on that though, and didn’t get that done until Sunday while hand washing my clothes for the majority of the late morning and early afternoon. You’d think I would have learned my lesson from last week, but I guess that’s what I get for hand washing literally all of my clothes outside in the African sun while completely naked. The second thing that I had on my to-do list was get completely lost in the suburbs, which quickly turned into grasslands, north of the city. I thought this would be a tough task to cross off the list, but it was really wasn’t hard at all, which was nice. About an hour into the run that I had planned would take no longer than 30 minutes, some makiwa stopped in their car to ask me for directions, I was obviously unable to help them, and then embarrassed myself and asked “does this way take me back to Bulawayo?” to which they just pointed in the opposite direction and said “nope, that way”. They didn’t even offer to give me a ride, which I thought was rude, but I guess that’s what I get for going on a run through the African wild while completely naked. Just over an hour and a half into my run in the African heat, I was able to find my way back to the house. I was actually able to accomplish both of these tasks while Greg was at another marathon four-hour church session. He actually left the service early and was later informed that the church was hosting an all-day prayer service. I guess that’s what he gets for going to an African United Methodist church while completely naked. As you can see, we are starting to assimilate into the culture and fashion styles extremely well. I’m obviously just kidding about me being naked during my adventures. Greg, on the other hand….
On a more serious note, I made the final call on my knee this week and took up my role as Assistant Coach for Bantu. I’m still overcoming the language barrier, as most of the players speak English, but not at the level that they can understand me when I stop deliberately speaking slowly and simply. I can’t fault them though, since their English is way better than my Ndebele will ever be. I was given free reign to plan and run my own session on Thursday, which ended up being our last training session of the week before our Saturday pre-season match with F.C. Platinum. We did well to draw them 1-1 considering that F.C. Platinum are always a title contender in the top tier here and that they are well known for being by far the richest club in Zimbabwe. (The owner runs platinum mines in the area. Makes total sense, right?)
As a side note, Greg and I have attained minor celebrity status around town. The fact that we are the only white guys on this side of town combined with the newspaper article talking about two Canadians (other guys that have signed with them. Not a mixup on the newspaper’s part) playing for Highlanders F.C. (the club that Boss used to coach here in Bulawayo that is one of the two giants of Zimbabwean football) means that we get stopped in the street, or yelled at from across the street and asked a lot if we are the “strikers”. We’ve given up correcting people and have just decided to roll with it. This also made our first night at a local watering hole more chaotic than we had hoped. Instead of just grabbing a few quiet drinks and heading home, we got approached (nice way to put it) by some not-so-sober people (again, nice way to put it) asking us about soccer and the U.S. I actually had a good argument with a guy about how the U.S. in fact has 50 states, and not the 54 that he insisted it had, so that was fun. Now though, we have made Monday’s back cover of Zimbabwe’s most popular newspaper that quotes an anonymous source about us. Here is the article, which has some factual errors in it, but at least we won’t have to correct people out in the street anymore.
I guess that Greg did some stuff this week too, but he’s not writing this week’s post, so tough luck if you were trying to hear any details.
Culture Shock Topic of the Week: Caution-Makiwa Crossing
After our two-and-a-half hour drive each way to F.C. Platinum, I figured our first road trip warranted some sort of discussion about Zimbabwean transportation. I know what you’re thinking (Zzzzz….) but trust me, when it comes to that stuff here, this place is quite the show. The only real rule in terms of transportation that I’ve seen enforced here is the law of gross tonnage, which states that whoever’s biggest, has the right of way.
The most commonly used mode of transportation in Zimbabwe is walking, since there are far fewer bikes than we had expected. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to be a pedestrian in Grand Theft Auto, you should take a stroll through downtown Bulawayo. Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but crossing a busy street whenever you feel like it is common place, and people don’t brake or even slow down for pedestrians. They just give them a little honk as if to say, “move or join the long list of people that I’ve probably struck with my vehicle”. We learned about the honking thing early on since we naturally look the wrong way whenever crossing the street since cars drive on the opposite side of the road.
Driving here comes with its own set of challenges, and also takes a good amount of composure. What I said about people crossing the street here means that people are lined up looking like they are about to walk in front of your car, but you have to keep going with traffic or risk being hit by other vehicles. We have access to the Grassroot Soccer cars (a CRV, Golf) to run errands and get meals, which has made grocery runs a lot easier than if we had to walk. Since everything is on the opposite side of the car, the obvious challenge of staying on the right (left) side of the road is compounded by the turn signal, windshield wipers, and headlights being on opposite sides of the steering wheel. Its tough to stay focused when every time we try to signal to turn, we turn on our windshield wipers. Another thing that keeps you on your toes here is the anti-hijack car alarm that, while driving the car will beep and give you three warnings, each about 5 seconds apart before the alarm goes nuts and the car shuts down. To keep the alarm from going off you have to reach down towards the pedals and find this button that is hidden in a crevasse under the steering wheel. Our first encounter with the alarm system involved three white guys (me, Greg and a visiting former intern, Alejandro), a blasting car alarm and a shut-down car in front of a Bulawayo police station when we weren’t able to find the button. I’m sure there’s a good joke in there somewhere.
The public sphere is where Zimbabwean transportation gets really fun. The most commonly used public transportation are sardine cans with tires on them called combis. While they look as if they should sit 12 maximum, it is common to see 20 person combis driving around town looking for more people to pick up before they actually head to wherever they are going. It’s a pretty incredible sight actually, because you don’t get to see four people in the front row of a car very often in the US. They are by far the cheapest way to get from town to town, or even to use to get from outlying townships into the city. Greg and I want to use one to get to Harare or Victoria Falls at some point, but to be honest, I’m not in a huge rush.
We plan on posting one of these weekly, probably on Mondays or Tuesdays. We will start supplementing these posts with more pictures and a few videos as well.
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