Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Our introduction by a bigwig from the Northern Cape Department of Education at a crucial school district meeting, at which Anna and I were presenting the GRS expansion strategy for the Karoo region:

"Colleagues, please give a warm welcome to Chris Kaimmer and Anna. They are from Brasilia."

Without breaking stride, Anna and I jumped into our presentation. Not only was our given homeland a few thousand miles South of its correct location but, ironically, the bigwig failed to give Anna's last name, just like real Brazilian soccer players (e.g. Ronaldo, Fred, Dunga, etc.).

But the expansion is off to a great start. The only problem is driving an hour and a half up and down the N1 to the expansion sites...one lane each way, 75mph speed limit, cracked-out truckers hauling ass from Joburg to Cape Town, highest death rate in South Africa (mom, you didn't read that)...it's crazy and terrifying.

In the words of my forefathers, muito obrigado e até logo,


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Get after it, Richmond

A cool pie chart GRS just sent out in its newsletter. Sometimes you can't even see Richmond on a map of South Africa, so to see it so prominently here is pretty cool. Yes, there actually is a place called Nobody in South Africa. There is also a place called Nowhere (I read a funny ad for a luxury cruise company in a magazine today that said "Durban to Nowhere - R7,500.")

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A few pictures from the past week. First, the U-19 soccer team I'm coaching twice per week. The team is made up almost entirely of Coloreds right now, but I'm trying to pull in some Xhosa (*palettal click*-K-O-Sa) players and assistant coaches. So here we are:

And here is the men's team Anna and I are playing with, the All Stars. The guy standing right in front of me plays 3rd division professional soccer in South Africa and is one of the best, most ridiculous players I've ever seen. This was taken right after we won the Richmond Bafana Bafana Tournament. Saddam, one of our GRS coaches, is on the far right; another one, Sticka, is standing far left. Mandla, our coach who played keeper for the 1st division side Orlando Pirates, is bottom left. The woman on the right is Lorna Adams, a town councilor and important local politician (and an All Stars supporter).

Finally, Anna and I were invited to participate in a fundraiser fashion show organized by a few of our GRS coaches. This was the result:


Friday, October 16, 2009

Airport Driving Lessons

The big thing Anna and I are going to be working on is expanding GRS programming from its base in Richmond (which has had the GRS curriculum in its schools since 2007) to the larger towns of De Aar and Colesberg, each about a 1-1.5 hour drive up the N1 highway from us. In South Africa, though, driving 1-1.5 hours up and down the N1 actually means driving stick 1-1.5 hours up and down the N1 because they don't believe in automatic cars out here. All the interns received an email telling us to learn stick before departing for South Africa, but it came literally a week before my flight out and I was already on the East Coast, on Manhattan island, sleeping on the floor of the apartment of impoverished recent college graduates. So I didn't learn stick before getting out here.

Circumstances have allowed for me to begin learning just in the past few weeks. Scarcity of practice vehicles has meant that Anna and I have been learning on a range of makes and models: from a brand new rental 12-passenger Quantum van to a slew of beat-to-shit farm trucks (or as they call them here, "bakkes.") My favorite part of the whole ordeal came yesterday, during a lesson with Johan, a kind elderly man who lives in town. Johan drove us out of Richmond on a country road and turned off onto an even more country road which led us out into a large clear prairie. "Lot of space out here, yeah?" remarked Johan as I quickly realized where we were: the Richmond airstrip. 30 minutes later, after working his old truck through 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th and blasting up and down this strip of dirt, I was feeling pretty good about my stick driving skills.

We've just secured a vehicle for Anna and I to use, and the expansion begins in earnest on Monday with a meeting in De Aar with a rep from the Department of Education. We'll be driving ourselves up there. If I don't post to this blog within a week, though, start looking for the black box.

Monday, October 5, 2009

No, We Don't Braai The Children

A couple of photos:

A common South African pastime (to the extent that I'm in a position to comment on South African pastimes) is the "braai," which doubles as a noun and verb for barbecue/barbecuing. Braai-ing is pretty sweet...big hunks of meat, slathered in spices, locked into a square metal cage that can be flipped and then spring open once the meat's done, then stuffed into either an ember-heated brick oven (like the ones below) or just on top of a more traditional BBQ rig. Either way, it's awesome and occurs deliciously often. The Hope in Richmond community center (out of which GRS works) has its own little braai facility. Here's a picture of some of our kids posing in the braai holes.

And a shot of Anna and I with the kids. A little washed out, but enjoy.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Mandela, Emilio Estevez and Richmond Youth Soccer

First, a great quote by Nelson Mandela that I came across again while reading (actually posted this quote several months ago but I don't think anybody was reading this back then):

"Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. Sport can awaken hope where there was previously only despair."

Speaking of sport's ability to effect change, I wanted to let you know that I've been thinking a lot recently about how I want to spend my "free time" this year, meaning time I'm not working on specific Grassroot Soccer/Hope in Richmond initiatives. One idea I'm really excited about, and around which I've started gathering a local advisory team, is founding, organizing and coaching a youth soccer club here in Richmond. My plan is to make this youth club my extracurricular priority, and I'm really pumped about putting some serious time and energy into it.

I've pulled together a dream team to help make it happen. Here's a little taste: obviously, the Richmond All Stars' very own Saddam "the Dutch Dictator" Holland as assistant coach. And, crucially, I've pulled in a wily old guy named Paul Sampies who--although the President of All Stars FC--lives Richmond soccer and basically represents all of the town's 9 teams. Sampies remembers the good old days (5-10 years ago) when we had vibrant school sports teams, grass athletic fields, and a fourth divison Castle League semi-pro team all here in town.

We're moving forward with an announcement for 15- and 16-year old boys in the high school and middle school in two weeks, inviting kids to come to a first practice. Depending on how many kids want to play, we may have to make "cuts" (as someone who has been cut from a few too many teams I hate that word) but we're hoping it won't be an issue. The hope is that this team will not only give a necessary outlet to youth athletic talent here in town (there are currently ZERO youth soccer teams, including the schools) but also provide the space for its players to become role models in the community, conducting community service projects and serving as ambassadors for our Grassroot Soccer HIV educational activities.

The details are still coming together, but doing a coaching project like this has been on my wishlist since arriving here. I can't wait for it to start in earnest.

I'll leave you with a speech given masterfully by Emilio Estevez playing Coach Gordon Bombay (whose character has just completed a court-ordered community service stint coaching a pee wee ice hockey team and refuses when the boss at his lawfirm tells him to cheat) in one of my favorite movies of all time, The Mighty Ducks:

"Mr. Ducksworth, you wanted me to learn about fair play, and being on a team. Now, I might not have learned everything yet, but I remember something my father said to me:

A team isn't a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to. Something you feel. Something you have to earn. And I am not gonna let those kids down."