Monday, 28 June 2010

Shosholoza Meyl Rail service - A 9 hour South African adventure

Someone (Alex) had the bright idea of us catching the Shosholoza Meyl Rail after the England v Germany match in Bloemfontein to Johannesburg last night and IT WAS NOT THE ONE.

When you google "Shosholoza Meyl", this is the first thing that comes up: "Shosholoza Meyl promises that each of our passengers will be treated to 'A Pleasant Experience' ...throughout their journey by train until they disembark at their end destination."

Needless to say - don't believe everything you read.

Picture this: England have just been hammered by Germany 4-1, me and the guys are drinking and dancing our sorrows away in a local bar as our train is not until 4am and the match finished at 6pm.

We leave the bar to catch a cab to the station and when we get on the train its FREEZING COLD and so packed that people are sleeping on the floor in the aisles and between seats. Failing to find a seat, me and my friends cram ourselves on the floor in the space between carriages (by the toilets) like dogs. But after about 20 minutes we're asked to move on by staff. We spend about an hour cursing the day, with sarcasm providing some uncontrollable bouts of laughter which slowly turns into hysterics (I didn't know whether to laugh or cry about the situation so I ended up laughing so hard that I did both). Then we spend another hour walking up and down the train looking for somewhere else to sleep. Eventually three out of the four of us manage to find seats and I end up standing. Soon after morning breaks something very strange (to us Londoners) happens - a blind man walks into our carriage and breaks into song. Like something out of a movie, everybody on the carriage starts singing along beautifully in harmony! It was quite odd, but given the night we were having, it shouldn't have been that much of a surprise.

I recorded a couple of short video clips (visual is pretty weak but the audio is good) because I knew some people would find it hard to picture the scene otherwise.

Imagine this on the London Underground:

By the way, this went on for four hours and soon after it stopped, as the train passed through Soweto, there was an almighty SMASHING sound from my window and shards of glass showered me and the woman sitting next to me. A few people screamed and everyone on the carriage ducked down thinking it might be gun fire, but fortunately it was just some stone-throwing troublesome youths.

For a second though and only for a second, I felt I was in genuine danger for the first time since getting here.

South Africa's Shosholoza Meyl Rail service - what a strange experience.

- Mr Devo

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Thursday, 24 June 2010

We made it - Africa's last hope prevails

With the national anthem still ringing in my ears and my lips sore from blowing the vuvuzela like my life depended on it, I woke up to a morning some doubters said I would never see – Ghana survived their encounter with the Germans and are through to the round of 16.

After piggy backing an ANC police escort to Soccer City to cut through the gridlock, my friends and I made it to Soccer City 10 minutes before the start of the game.

The wondrous Soccer City glowed like a bowl of gold peppered with diamonds – I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. After taking a few pictures, I ran as fast as I could to the box seating entrance and managed to grab a pint and a fist full of biltong just in time to see Ghana kickoff against the mighty Germany.

Spirits were high as we watched a plucky Ghana endure all the Germans threw at us in the first half, leading to a spontaneous dance off in front of the big screen at half time.

In my box there were Germany and Ghana fans in equal measure and throughout the game we exchanged chants, handshakes and words of encouragement.

One Ghanaian lady who asked me to call her “Auntie Christina” cheered the loudest and at the end of the game, despite Germany stealing a goal, the whole stadium erupted in celebration after the “Socceroos” – Australia’s national team – managed to beat the stubborn Serbian’s 2-1, a result that sent Ghana and Germany through to the next round. As the final whistle blew, Auntie Christina gave me a look that said “we did it” and we sang and danced all the way to the park-and-ride.

After all the fuss about empty seats you’d have had to be Columbo to find an empty seat at Soccer City last night as fans from all nations turned out to see Africa’s last hope battle one of the Europe’s footballing super-powers. Ade, a Nigerian supporter who was at Soccer City said after the game: “They did us proud, even though we [Nigeria] are out of it, an African team is still in the cup, I’m happy and I will be cheering on my brothers.”

I spoke to some American and Brazilian fans that were also at the game who felt that despite losing to the Germans, Ghana are a team to be reckoned with and will not make it easy for the Americans in the next round. Rob Kiley, from Boston said: “The Ghanaians are a tough side; they put up a good fight.” Brazilian soccer fanatic George added: “They [Ghana] are Africa’s Brazil, when they have the ball they are as good as anyone, they are a very skilful side.”

Whatever the next round against America holds, one thing is for certain; Ghana has an international fan base and will also have the whole of Africa behind it.

- Mr Devo

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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS! French go out in shame

Something I knocked up to "honour" Frances spectacularly poor performance and exit from this year's World Cup. According to SKY NEWS, the French Football Federation booked the team second class seats as punishment and Theirry Henry has been summoned by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to explain the French team's shambolic appearance. Fancy having a national team full of quitters, no-shows and primadonnas- the inglorious basterds.

If I was French I'd be quite embarrassed, telling everyone to pronounce my last name the English way from now on, so its "DEEEVO" (formerly - "DEVEAUX" - sorry grandad).

- Mr Devo

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Perception versus reality - South Africa's open arms

Fear is a terrible thing, especially when it is so overwhelming that it cripples your experience of life and prevents you from broadening your view of the world.

Coming to South Africa I'd made a conscious effort to delay my perceptions until I'd breathed the air, tasted the food and drank the beer of a local Joburg hideout. Despite being warned that death, rape and at best - robbery, awaited me in the rainbow nation.

I'm glad to say, only two incidents of robbery have happened to people around me and none of them violent. I'm not deluded however, I'm well aware that South Africa has its horror stories, more frequent (according to the statistics) than most other places.

But the statistics cannot account for the all the good a place has to offer, for example, I read today that SA has a murder rate of 18,000 per year - but with a population of 48,687,000+ that reads to me as 48,669,000 not murdered per annum and for all of those people left behind, a high percentage of them are worth care, attention and are definitely worth getting to know.

This short account of reality's triumph over perception, written by Afrikaner Journalist Rian Malan [see below] tickled me and encapsulates the sentiment I've been feeling these past two weeks whilst living smack bang in the middle of Johannesburg.

In The Spectator, Malan writes:
At around 10 p.m, we hove to outside a nightspot [in Soweto] known somewhat inexplicably as The Oz Club. Inside, 200 dark-skinned punters were chortling to the jokes of a black stand-up comedian who greeted our arrival with howls of glee. ‘Look!’ he shouted. ‘White men!’ Two hundred heads swivelled in our direction. The joint fell dead silent. We felt like missionaries bound for the cooking pot, and verily, we were in for a roasting. ‘These whites all have penis-dimension anxiety,’ declared comedian Jordan Mazibuko, aka Jay Boogie. ‘They stand next to a black man at the urinal and their eyes cut sideways and you can see they’re thinking, “Christ, this just isn’t fair.” And you know what?’ he cried, pointing directly at me. ‘That’s exactly how we feel when we go into a bank!’ The joint erupted. When we laughed too, everyone slapped us on the back and offered us drinks.
I laughed out loud when I read this, you can picture the scene perfectly and it reminds me of the "free hugs" campaign- When you great a person with open arms, more often than not, you will find that people respond in-kind, sometimes surprising themselves. The funny thing about humans is that we are wired up to mirror each others' behaviour and to a certain degree, we have to consciously choose not to.

Against all odds, South Africa has opened its arms and is proving that it really can welcome the world on its doorstep. It breaks my heart to think that so few of you are here to bear witness.

- Mr Devo

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Friday, 18 June 2010

A man of my word - hope my country can show the same determination

Fortunately, I managed to stick to my plans and after taking out only R100 yesterday, I managed to come home with R17.30. I opted for tap water with my meal last night instead of my new love - Black Label! or "Zamalek" as the locals call it. So with change in my pocket, I'll definitely be continuing my "have less - use less" economic strategy when I return home.

Today England step up to the plate, I've got my jersey on and I'm ready to spend 90 minutes shouting expletives at a screen, but I sincerely hope they prolong their expulsion from the World Cup until at least the quarter finals! After the first round of matches, most of Western Europe is seriously underachieving (bar Germany) and with France now almost certain to tumble (goalless again) at the group stage hurdle again, England Spain and Portugal had better pull their socks up.


- Mr Devo

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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Those who have more - use more. Those who have less - use less.

One of life's quirks that I sometimes have to force myself to remember, particularly when I'm far away from home.

When in familiar surroundings it's much easier to live within your means, save sensibly and treat yourself on occasion and in reasonable measure. So it struck me as I prepared to leave my place and brave the icy-cool South African winter air - when I take out R200, I tend to spend R200 - so today I took out R100. I'll let you know tomorrow how much money I spend today.

#lifelesson #economics

- Mr Devo

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Today, as South Africa remembers its troubled past
- June the 16th is a day we should all know

Today is Youth Day in South Africa, an occasion to mark one of the country’s darkest and most historic episodes. As South Africa hosts thousands of visitors from across the world, will South Africa’s progression and rich heritage be one of the big winners at this year’s World Cup?

Youth Day mark’s the death of school boy Hector Pieterson who was shot by police 1976 during the Student Uprising in the heart of Soweto, where high-school children protested against the mandatory learning of Afrikaans and for improved education standards. Tragically, the authorities unleashed a vicious and sustained attack on the students, using tear gas and live rounds.

The Hector Pieterson museum which opened in Soweto back in 2002 – just two blocks away from the spot where Hector was killed – commemorates the *566 young lives that were lost between 16 June and 12 December in 1976.

With its simple layout, the museum provides snapshots into the struggle of the students and captures the brutality of their treatment, using a mix of photography, video and artefacts.

Many people are distantly aware of South Africa’s history and struggle with apartheid, but few could have a true sense of the extent to which apartheid inflicted suffering and devastation on the youth of South Africa without visiting Soweto’s Hector Pieterson museum.

This iconic image, taken by famous news photographer Sam Nzima shows a dying Hector Pieterson being carried by a fellow student.

I took this at the museum, a touching tribute - each tablet represents each of the 500+ children killed between June 16th and December 12th 1976.

Football fans visiting the museum, many of whom had never heard of Hector Pieterson, described it as a sobering and moving experience. USA soccer fan, Allison from Chicago, said: “I can honestly say this day [visiting the museum] was one of the most memorable, moving and thought provoking days of my life. I learned so much and gained so much perspective on the cultural, social and racial influences on South African history. On returning to the US, I won’t hesitate to tell my friends and family the story of Hector Pieterson and the things I’ve learned from visiting Soweto and this impressive museum.”

Craig Geswindt, CEO of tour operator Jozibear Tours has taken bookings from Football fans from South America, China and Holland and said that all of their customers have been pleasantly surprised by the culture and history in Soweto.

If you are fortunate enough to be in South Africa at this time, I sincerely urge you to travel beyond the comfort of your hotel rooms and the false sense of security you find in the familiarity of wealthy areas like Sandton and visit places like the Hector Pieterson museum in Soweto and discover a chapter in South African history rarely discussed in the international media; a chapter that will move, educate and inspire you.

Happy Youth Day!

*This is a rough figure

- Mr Devo

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Sunday, 6 June 2010

Soccer City - YOU BEAUTY!!!

For the past 20 years, Soccer City (formerly known as the 'FNB Stadium') has been at the heart of the beautiful game in South Africa. But after receiving a World Cup upgrade, this year's host nation can boast at having one of the world's most stunning, unique and awe-inspiring football venues.

Here's a few pictures:

If you're fortunate to make it South Africa, Soccer City is definitely a must-see destination.

- Mr Devo

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Friday, 4 June 2010

Samba + Sunshine = Happiness

Its a pretty simple equation really, give it a try:

Legendary and internationally acclaimed Brazilian artist Seu Jorge and the band Almaz have teamed up for what has quickly become one of my favourite album's released this year. Everybody love's the sunshine a beautiful, simmering and summery cover of the Roy Ayers classic, is the leading single from their self-titled album which will be released on the 27th of July to coincide with a sixteen-city North American tour.

You can listen to Everybody love's the sunshine HERE.
This is one of my other favourite tracks Pai Joao.

Make sure you go out and buy the album when its released! Its a classic.
For more info, check out:

- Mr Devo

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