Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Into the quarter finals.

Yesterday the Dutch played the 1/8th final against Slovakia at 4pm in Durban's gorgeous Moses Mabhida stadium. Madhiba was the leader of the South African Communist Party, but he was also important in the development of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU) and the ANC; especially their armed wing Umkhonto we Sizwe. Btw, for the people who haven't read Nelson Mandela's "Long Road to Freedom", please please do! Anyhow, we dressed up in orange, drank beer, sang to bad Dutch music, and won: 2-1. The next stop is is Port Elizabeth around 1,000km south where we will play Brazil on July 2.

And we're back in Durban.

We had great seats. He! Jack van Gelder.

Robben (maker of 1-0) out, Elia in.

Huntelaar (great striker) warming up.

And what an absolutely gorgeous stadium!

Towards Durban (Total kilometers driven: 4,085).

Capetown & Bloemfontein (Friday & Saturday)

If the Dutch were second in the group they would play in Pretoria (1/8 final) and Johannsburg (1/4 final); cities where we still have lots of friends. ‘Unfortunately’ we won everything so this Monday we play Slovakia in Durban. Thus: to Bloemfontein (around 1,000 km) on Saturday and from there to Durban (around 600 km) the day after that. The preparation for the trip was rather bad. On Friday evening Kathryn threw us a party at Marcus and Laura’s place; Marcus (from Finland) works at UCT and Laura (from the UK) studies there. After a great dinner with fresh fish we drank lots of wine and were in bed only around 330am; so we had a full three hours to sleep before driving. We had such a nice time with Kathryn and friends in Capetown, though.

FLTR: Marcus, Laura, Roy, me, Kathryn, Kevin.

We drove through the beautiful winelands of the Cape and through the Karoo Desert – While listening to Mafikizolo, Johny Clegg, Papa Wemba, Freshly Ground, Daby Toure, etc. – and after 1,017 kilometer arrived around 8pm in the Afrikaner stronghold Bloemfontein. Bloemfontein is the capital of the Free State province and also South Africa's judicial capital (administrative capital is Pretoria and the legislative capital is Capetown). Free State used to be the Orange Free State: one of two independent Boer republics during the second half of the 19th century.

Because Germany played the UK in Bloemfontein on Sunday it was difficult to find accommodation. However, via via we found a place at a very nice Afrikaner family that lived in a large house with a swimming pool, bar, several hectares of land around his house, etc. He used to be a rugby player for one of the big national teams. While sitting with him, his wife, and his son and daughter at the bar we talked until late about politics, the state of the country, etc. They were proper Afrikaners and for people naïve about the country's histories, clearly racist. However it was impressive to see the effects of the World Cup in a country where there is still so much animosity between black and white, and where the whites play rugby and cricket, and where soccer is a sport for the black people. The family was telling that they got interested in soccer due to the World Cup and actually watch some games on the television. The son (around 25 years old) was telling how he went to a match of Nigeria and sat next to black people and went partying with them in the evening... and actually had a good time.

Durban & Amanzitoti (Sunday)
Because accommodation in Durban is either booked or very expensive and because it is not a nice town we booked a hostel in Amanzitoti; around 20 kilometers south of Durban. I know this area quite well as six years ago I obtained my PADI diving degree in Umkomaas – another town around 10 kilometers south of here. In front of these cities in the ocean lies the Aliwal Shoal; one of the best dive places in the world. After yet again a very comfortable ride and picking up the tickets for the next matches of the Dutch at Durban’s King Shaka international airport we arrived around 7pm in the hostel; we unfortunately had to listen on the radio how Germany beat England.

The Dutch mobile.

Towards a victory (Monday)
It’s now early Monday morning. I’ll be dressing up in orange in a bit as the Dutch have to play at 4pm against Slovakia. I woke up this morning opened my curtains and looked out on the hostel’s swimming pool in the front and the Indian ocean in the back: awesome!

Those are the views.

Random
  • There are so many speeding lights on the road and everybody consistently speeds, so much money is collected. In first instance we were cursing at them (and we still do) but we also see their benefit. First, of course, it (hopefully) makes people less willing to speed. Second, especially for developing countries it is difficult to collect taxes (see here for something I wrote on this years ago); money collected from speeding tickets could a good way to contribute to tax revenue: people choose themselves whether to speed or not, and while crude its very progressive because especially the rich drive cars. Anyhow, I’m sure Roy and I already contributed our fair share to South Africa’s the national budget.
  • Roy and I ate the best burger in the world! Place to be found: Mama’s Foodcorner in Hanover, a city only 821 kilometers outside on the N1 from Capetown to Bloemfontein on the N2. Well worth the trip.
  • Because I’m heading to the Congo on July 5th for 6 months and visit some other countries on the way my wallet is filled with Kenyan Shillings, Congolese Francs, Rwandan Francs, euros, dollars and South African rands. Yesterday after dinner the waiter ran after our car because I left shillings instead of rands. Sorry (that was already the second time I did that)!
Wallet.

  • I really dislike shopping so I randomly grabbed two jeans out of my closet when I was packing for the Congo; assuming they would survive six months there. Unfortunately one of them didn't even survive three weeks in South Africa. I wish I was trendy then holes in one's trousers is cool. Now I have to go to the shop. :(
Trousers.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Cape of Good Hope, and 2-1.

Tuesday
Early in the morning we left for the Cape of Good Hope. On our way we passed by Boulder Beach and watched penguins chill out on the beach, and take a dive into the Indian Ocean when they want to. Around noon we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope; which is not (as commonly thought) the most southern tip of Africa (the southernmost point is Cape Agulhas) nor is it the dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The Cape of Good Hope, however, marks the psychologically important point where by boat one begins to travel more eastward than southward. We did an hour hike and sat on a large rock hundreds of meter high and sat down. It was great!

Penguins...

on the beach.

And a submarine in the back (we were close to Simon's Town - a naval base).

Lots of baboons.

And amazing...

amazing views.

At 4pm the United States had to play Algeria; a match we wanted to see for two reasons: 1. Roy’s fiancée is Algerian, 2. Fang and Evans are in Cape Town and asked to watch the match together. I know Fang and Evans from Columbia where both just finished their PhD in economics. After the US winning 1-0 after scoring in the first minute of the extra time, we had dinner at Spur and went to bed early for the day to come.

Friday
It was going to be one of those Dutch days again. After dressing up in orange and taking public transport into town, Roy and I arrived at the Fifa Fan Fest around 11am; beer was already flowing and bad Dutch music was already playing. Because the match would only start at 830pm Roy and I sat down in a corner with a few beers and read a book. By the time it was clear Italy was kicked out of the World Cup (say around 5pm), the number of Dutch had gone up to over 18,000 people! Yet again a sea of orange. At 6pm we walked in parade to the Stadium where we won with 2-1 from Cameroon. Late in the evening all streets were filled with orange (and a little yellow, green and red from Cameroon). The atmosphere was - yet again - so amazing!

Sea of orange.

Roy, me, Fang.

Many Dutch...

clogging up the streets.

Beautiful stadium.

And towards the 2-1.

Random:
  • Completely forgot to tell this. During our drive from Durban to Plettenberg we got a speeding ticket. Around East London somebody jumped in front of our car and directed that we had to go to the left; something we didn’t as we thought the guy was nuts. That guy happened to be a police officer who then chased us with blue lights on the high way, giving us a speeding ticket (we drove 140 instead of 120). It was a very friendly cop though.
  • In addition to Fang and Evans, I also met Joost in South Africa (in Durban actually a few days ago). I know Joost from my time in Tilburg University. I saw him uploading pictures of the World Cup on Facebook, I sent him an email and a few days later we met up. It is such a small world.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cape Town (Total kilometers by car: 2,348)


Monday

We woke up early and had a comfortable ride to Cape Town. The views – yet again – were incredibly beautiful. Cape Town is where the Dutch play Cameroon on Thursday, where Roy and I have been before six years ago for about 2 weeks, where Roy and I will now stay for about a week, and... Cape Town is the city where Kathryn lives. Kathryn is a good friend with whom we studied in Pretoria six years ago; she is from the United States, studies and works at the University of Cape Town (UCT) and we stay at her place for the days to come. So, after 572 kilometers we arrived around 7pm in Newlands; the area of Cape Town where Kathryn lives. We then watched the gorgeous Green Point Stadium and Table Mountain from Kathryn’s boyfriend’s roof, and finally caught up on so many things over dinner. It’s good to be back in Cape Town; the city where the Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck arrived in 1652. After almost 400 years the Dutch are back. And in the thousands!


Amazing views.

High quality roads.

And weird Dutch people.

Tuesday

We took a minibus to city center and from there had a 20 minute walk to the Waterfront. This was not advisable six years ago, but so much has changed; something I hope will outlast the World Cup. After some sightseeing, Roy and I had breakfast (with a view on either Table Mountain or the ocean depending which way one’s head is turned), I finally had internet to upload some posts with pictures, reacted to so many people who cheered “Hup Holland” after seeing my overly ugly orange shirt, went to the hairdresser (I finally do no longer have to wear a cap), and we met Neels. The latter is a big Andre Rieu-fan. Roy’s girlfriend wants to give a nice present to her parents so she found tickets for a sold-out Andre Rieu concert in Maastricht. The tickets could be picked up in… Cape Town. We had a few beers with Neels – who brought those tickets – and he invited us to a proper South African braai with him and his friends and family on Saturday. I love this country!

Yep, Dutch flags in the top left and Table Mountain in the background.

At 4pm South Africa had to play France; we watched it on the big screen at Waterfront with several thousand of South Africans. Except for those vuvuzelas it was yet another great experience with so many people in such a good mood – especially knowing the South Africans were playing very well (final score 2-1). At around 8pm Kathryn had finished work, joined us for dinner and we had some beers with her and her friends in a bar in the area Woodstock. Yet again, what a great day; with such great weather and such nice people!



The harbor on the left.

And Table Mountain on the right. Great!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Towards Plettenberg (total kilometers by car: 1,776)

On Sunday we left Durban early. The Dutch have to play Cameroon in Cape Town upcoming Thursday – almost 1,800km away from Durban. We're driving that distance in two parts: so up to Plettenberg Bay for that first part: 1,149km in one day. The drive was incredible! The weather was fantastic, the views (again) were amazing, and the atmosphere throughout the country was absolutely incredible. People in cars (from so many different countries) consistently wave and smile at each other, and there is so much police around and all are so willing to help (we, for example, had an escort through the city Umtata).

Escort by South African police through Umtata.

Needless to say, the trip from Durban to Plettenberg had Dutch overtones: many Dutch in Dutch-decorated cars, South African police along the way were waiving Dutch flags, and even South African tollbooth employees were dressed in orange. An absolutely incredible drive! After many (many!) hours in the car Roy and I arrived in Plettenberg around night. After two well-deserved beers and game of pool, Roy and I went knockout.

Tollbooth's in orange.

One of many...

many Dutch people on the road.

And even...

complete orange buses.

Three random things:

  • South Africa really invested a lot over the last few few years. The roads are incredible and there is so much police around.
  • Radio 2000 (the English-language sport channel) has such bad commentary. Roy and I ended up listening to RSG (Radio Sonder Grenzen): the Afrikaans-language channel.
  • I'm back in this area after six years (a long time ago I spent time in Knysna and Cape Town with my ex-girlfriend Jana).

Towards the 1-0 (Total kilometers by car: 627 km)

Friday

After a comfortable flight from Nairobi, I was back in South Africa – a country where I was an exchange student at the University of Pretoria almost six years ago. Roy – a fellow Dutchman with whom I studied during those months – was waiting for me; he had arrived 2 hours earlier directly from Amsterdam. After decorating our car with orange we were on our way to Durban where the Dutch would play Japan the next day. The road was fantastic (so much so that we expect to receive at least 3 speeding tickets), the weather was great, and the views were incredible. We arrived around 11pm in our hostel. After a few well-deserved beers in the hostel’s bar and chatting with the owners about Africa we went to bed; of course, extremely nervous for the next day. :)

Me in between the orange.

Amazing views.

Saturday

At 10am we were at the beach strip of Durban with.. at least two thousand Dutch people all dressed up in orange. The atmosphere was amazing! Bad Dutch music was playing, everybody was dancing, the beer sold in the shops around the event was finished before 11am, and Japanese that passed by were pulled into the crowd and were singing and jumping along in the sea of orange. At noon we all walked together to the beautiful stadium (singing and waving the Dutch flag), we saw the Dutch win with 1-0, and afterwards Roy and I spent our evening at a concert with African music. It was an absolutely incredible day!


The beach strip.


The beach strip with Dutch people.

Towards the stadium.

The stadium.

The anthems.

Towards another goal?
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What a view.

African concert - awesome!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Back in Africa.

It’s Friday morning and am in the plane from Nairobi to Johannesburg. The last two days I spent in Nairobi. Reasons: 1. I have transited often via Nairobi but never left the airport, 2. Since recently a friend studies in Nairobi. Thus, time to stay a few days in Nairobi and get to know the city.

Wednesday
I arrived around 2am (Tuesday night) and Junior and Jubacae were waiting. Juni is Congolese, worked for the evaluation we undertake for the IRC in the Congo, studies computer sciences in Nairobi, and is the translator for the Voix des Kivus project. Juba is Chadian, a good friend of Junior, and also studies computer sciences. After dropping me off at the hotel they were back at 9am, having arranged a Kenian simcard and planned a busy day. After having breakfast at Juba’s place we visited a friend of them – Melvin – who lived out of the city. Sitting cramped in a small bus (picture of such a bus below) and having red dirt under my shoes again, made clear how much I’ve missed Africa.

Local transport.

After a long day in the city we were on our way back home by bus (a bigger one – picture below). Because people in Nairobi speak English we could gossip out loud in French. – and so we did, especially when two pretty girls stepped inside the bus. We jokingly said “Let’s get off at the same stop and ask them to join us for a coffee in the shopping mall”. We did. As soon as we got out the ladies turned around asked “where shall we go for coffee?”. One of them was from Burundi and spoke perfect French.

Junior and me.

After a coffee, the three of us had dinner at Juba’s place and then went to a bar to watch South Africa painfully loose from Uruguay with 3-0 and then to a popular Kenyan club where we met the two ladies again. It was a fun evening. I again did my utmost to prove that we white people can’t dance.

Thursday
After waking up early, we had a long walk through the city with Juda’s girlfriend joining us for lunch. We, among others, visited the parliament. Because Kenya is a former British colony the parliament is the same as the British Lower House from inside, and... there is a "Little Big Ben" standing right next to the parliament - just like in London.

Little Big Ben.

Me, Junior, Juda.

We again had dinner at Juba’s place. His dad is a high official for the African Union and works in Burundi. He lives with his mom and sister in Nairobi. They really made me feel at home (and his mom is a great cook). During the day we passed by the Kenyan IRC headquarters because I wanted to drop of some DRC-related material that I did not want to carry around in South Africa (netbooks, GPS devices, digital cameras, etc.). We were immediately invited by IRC’s country director to watch soccer in the evening; it was yet again a great evening. I was in bed shortly after midnight because at 5am a taxi would pick me up again for the airport.

Random things

  • While walking in Nairobi I felt as if in South Africa. The people speak English and it’s all quite developed.
  • Taking a bus in Nairobi is a great experience. On top of the above story, on Tuesday a drunk (but friendly) Kenyan tried to hook up with a South Korean sitting next to him. After she refused to give him her phonenumber he said “We will see each other again, because mountains don't meet each other, but people will."
  • Interestingly, Kenyans can see from which ethnic group their fellow country men are. Does this mean ethnic groups are not only constructed but are actually based on real differences?
  • Only the second day I noticed that we’ve been walking and driving on the left side of the road. Oeps!
  • Mom, I didn’t tell this on purpose before leaving. :). Last Sunday a bomb exploded in Uhuru park (2 minute walk from my hotel) - some grenades were thrown into a crowd of a few thousand killing several and wounding tens of people (here). The situation in Nairobi is a bit tense at the moment with an upcoming vote on a new constitution. Last Tuesday a large area of Nairobi was again blocked off because of an expected explosive device. For a little bit more information see below.

A bit of background
Since independence Kenya - despite the different ethnic groups - has remained quite stable. Things however changed for a while in 2007 when the presidential elections were rigged by the then president Mwai Kibaki - although it was clear that his opponent Raila Odinga had won. Targeted ethnic violence took place on a large scale and was directed against the Kikuyu people (the ethnic group of Kibaki). Also, some Kikuyu engaged in violence against groups supportive of Odinga (primarily Luos and Kalenjin). More information here.

Former-UNSG Kofi Annan was able to unite Kibaki and Odinga in a grand coalition government where both would share power: Kibaki as President and Odinga as Prime Minister. The new constitution - the vote takes place on August 4 - is a crucial part a reform package that was then made, aimed to heal the ethnic divisions that dominate Kenyan politics. The new constitution would limit the presidential powers and strengthen civil liberties. Both Odinga and Kibaki are supporting the document. Some, however, are afraid that the approval of a new constitution could pave the way for new alliances, threatening the current fragile coalition. Also, some senior politicians are spearheading a 'no' campaign because they are angry at the failure to devolve power to the regions and plans to cap private land holdings. And also the Christian church leaders are urging a 'no' vote because of a clause allowing abortions on medical grounds and the inclusion of Islamic courts dealing with divorce and inheritance.

Back to the Congo.

Since last Tuesday morning I am on my way to the Democratic Republic of Congo; with a detour through Kenya (a few days to meet friends) and South Africa (three weeks to support the Dutch team to the semi-finals). I will then be in the DRC for six months - coming back the end of January 2011.

So, because I am back in Africa, I will blog at Coding in the Congo in the months to come.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Diversity.

So the Dutch parliamentary elections took place and the result is horrible (in total there are 150 seats):

Party Peter's summary Seats Change
VVD The liberals 31 +9
PVDA The labor party 30 -3
PVV The right 24 +15
CDA The christen-democrats 21 -20
SP The socialists 15 -10
GL The greens 10 +3
D66 The social-democrats 10 +7
CU The religious ones 5 -1
SGP The more strict religious ones 2 +0
PVD Yes, a party for animals 2 +0

The result is bad for two reasons:
  1. It will be difficult to create a stable government that survives to the next elections because the voters either went for very left or very right. Our queen now has to appoint an 'informateur' who will meet party leaders and try to come up with a solid government: i.e. a combination of parties that are like-minded, has a majority, and consists out of as few parties as possible.
  2. The biggest winner is the PVV. While they have some good points, they have many (many) bad ones: they want to stop (Islamic) immigration into the Netherlands all together, no money should be spend on development aid, and the role of the European Union should be diminished substantially. Why are so many Dutch people - almost 1.5 million of them - afraid of the rest of the world?
I like the following poster from Loesje:


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Purity and Exile.

I just finished "Purity and Exile" by Liisa Malkki - associate professor of anthropology at Stanford [1]. The book is based upon anthropological fieldwork done in 1985/1986 in Tanzania’s regions of Rukwa and Kigoma. Her subjects of study are the Hutu refugees that fled Burundi in 1972 when the the Tutsi-controlled Burundi army initiated mass killings of the country's majority group the Hutu; an estimated 100,000 people were killed.

After placing the massacre in historical context - discussing the long history of oppression and inequality between Hutu and Tutsi in Burundi - Malkki gets to the core of her argument: "The social and imaginative processes of the construction of nationness and identity can come to be influenced by the local, everyday circumstances of life in exile, and how spatial and social isolation of refugees can figure in these processes."

In brief, there were two groups of Hutu refugees in Tanzania. One group was settled in a carefully planned, physically isolated refugee camp in Mishamo. The other group lived in Kigoma - a city on Lake Tanganyika - outside of any camp context and dispersed in non-refugee neighborhoods. These two groups ascribed meanings to national identity and history, to notions of home and homeland, and to exile as a collectively experienced condition in very different ways. The "camp refugees" were constantly engaged in the construction and reconstruction of their (Hutu) history as a people. The "town refugees", on the other hand, had not constructued a categorically distinct, collective identity. Rather than defining themselves as “the Hutu refugees" or "Hutu", they tended to seek ways of assimilating and inhabiting multiple shifting identities derived or borrowed from the social context of the township.

An interesting read; the 352 pages were finished quickly.

[1] Liisa Helena Malkki. 1995. Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.