Part 2 in an occasional series about boxing. Read Part 1. Also, watch a short video about George’s gym. When George Khosi was a kid, living on the streets of Hillbrow, he dreamed of being a boxing champion. He fought his way (literally) through the ranks, and was on his way toward becoming one. That dream died 14 years ago, when George was brutally attacked, shot, and left for dead on a hillside overlooking Johannesburg. I didn’t know it at the time, but I recently learned that the hill where George nearly lost his life is the same hill that I visited and blogged about two weeks ago. George. (Photo: Fiver Löcker)
A few months ago I wrote about the thrill of walking in Johannesburg at night. Yesterday I discovered that running in Joburg at night is even better. Especially when you’re running with 10,000 other people, dressed in florescent yellow. My friends and I, getting ready to Run Jozi. I wish I’d painted my face. (Photos courtesy of Martina.) Last night was the first-ever Nike Run-Free, Run Jozi race — a 10k run through downtown Joburg. I had never run a 10k race in my life, and had never had an interest in doing so. In fact, I had never run 10 kilometers in one go before. But when Martina told me there was going to be 10k race through the city centre, at night, costing only R70 ($9.30), and that participants get a free t-shirt, I signed up right away.
Part 1 of a 2-part (or maybe 3-part) series on why I love boxing. Read Part 2. Also, watch a short video about George’s gym. I’ve been meaning to write about boxing since I started this blog. Boxing has played a huge role in my life over the past two years and I’ve been waiting for just the right time to talk about it. Now, I’ve left it too long. I have too much to say about boxing to fit into a single post. I’ll start at the beginning.
Day camp in Kagiso — a township surrounded by factories and mine dumps on Johannesburg’s far western edge — is much like day camp at the average American YMCA. But with a lot more singing and dancing. Dance class at camp in Kagiso. (To learn more about Kagiso Township, read this article from the Mail & Guardian.) Most American kids go to summer camp, whether it’s local day camp or sleep-away camp, at least once in their lives. I attended countless sports camps, drama camps, and everyday camps as a child, and my first summer job was as a camp counselor. In South Africa, camp is a novel concept. Middle and upper class kids might go on camping ‘holidays’ with their families or with school groups. But organized camp programs, especially for underprivileged kids, didn’t really exist here until several years ago, when an American NGO called Global Camps Africa (GCA) and a South African NGO called HIVSA got together and started Camp Sizanani.
I grew up watching baseball, as I described in a recent post. I also grew up playing softball, which is baseball’s alternative for girls in the United States. I played softball competitively from when I was about 8 until I turned 30, when I was forced to retire after one too many knee surgeries. Me playing softball in the summer of 1990. I’ve used this photo before but like to take every opportunity to show it off. (Photo: Tenney Mason) There is no better feeling in life than hitting a softball (or baseball) on the sweet spot of your bat, and watching the ball sail ten feet over the outfielder’s head and roll to the fence. You take off running, picking up speed as you round each base, and explode across home plate, engulfed into a flurry of high-fives from riotous teammates. It feels even better than…well, you know what I mean.
When I moved to South Africa last year, I had a vague understanding of the role Nelson Mandela played in ending apartheid and reinventing this country. (Nelson Mandela is often referred to as Madiba, which is his clan name. It took me a while to figure out why people are always calling him that.) It also took a while for me to comprehend the magnitude of Madiba’s impact on the South African people, and on the consciousness and spirit of this country. I’ve been trying to think of a historical figure who has had a comparable impact in the United States. There isn’t one. Two years ago, when Madiba turned 91, his birthday was officially coined Mandela Day — a day to honor Nelson Mandela and perpetuate his legacy worldwide. Mandela Day is tomorrow, 18 July, but the country has been celebrating all weekend. Mandela Day is a big deal around here.
Yesterday, thanks to my new friends at travelwrite.co.za, I attended a “Rediscover Joburg” tour hosted by the mayor of Johannesburg. The purpose of the tour was to showcase various development projects in the city to members of the media and other invited guests. It was also a farewell tour for the mayor, Amos Masondo, who steps down this Tuesday after 10 years in office. I showed up at the Joburg Theatre, the tour’s starting point, with no idea what to expect. When I saw the buses, I knew I was in for an exciting day. The bus I rode during the Rediscover Joburg tour.
A few months ago I attended my first cricket match and learned that cricket is not a game for sissies. Yesterday I discovered rugby is not for sissies, either. I’ve watched rugby on TV before, and I’ve seen Invictus. But nothing prepared me for the moment after the whistle blew, when I watched a guy catch the ball, run for a few seconds, and get slammed to the turf by a 1500-pound mob of muscle. Without pads or a helmet. My sports photography leaves a lot to be desired, but you get the idea.
I’ve been looking for an excuse to hang out at the sprawling outdoor market in Fordsburg — Joburg’s “Little India” — on a Saturday night. The market, called “the Square,” is where Fordsburg residents go to see and be seen on Saturdays. It’s also a great place to buy clothes, DVDs, spices, jewelry, and tasty Indian and Pakistani street food. Spices, packets of Indian food, and popcorn for sale at a stall in the Square.
Last night I attended another cricket match — a one-day match between South Africa and India at the historic Wanderers Stadium in Joburg. Unlike the test match I attended a few weeks ago, which lasted for five days, this one began at 2:30 in the afternoon and ended around 10:00. The final score says it all: India 190, South Africa 189. This photo was taken when it looked like South Africa would win. In the end, the home team came up one painful run short. I don’t have time to write much about the match so I’ll just share a few photos.
I love sports. I’ve attended countless professional baseball, football, soccer, ice hockey, and basketball games. I also love traveling and have done lots of it. But as of three days ago, I had never attended a professional sporting event outside the United States. I made my debut as an international sports fan this weekend. Joe is covering a cricket test match between South Africa and India and I went along. The match started on Thursday and will probably last through Monday. It poured with rain on Thursday so I delayed my debut until Friday. Cricket at SuperSport Park.